Buying Decisions

Running a business comes with lots of buying decisions and even more options.

From office supplies and software packages, to insurance companies, and so much more. Choosing the best option can be exhausting. It’d be easy to say yes to the first sales pitch from the first company you approach, but history has shown us that the best sales pitch isn’t always the best choice. Knowledge is power and having knowledge of the product which is being sold to you gives you power in a sales presentation to ask the right questions, evaluate its value to your company’s specific needs, and make an informed decision. Let’s think about what it takes to become an informed decision maker.

2018-02 Buying Decisions

Where do you seek information on the product you are looking to buy, or the other person is looking to sell to you? Energized, eager salespeople are more than excited to tell you everything you want or need to hear to purchase their product. The goal of the salesperson is to make the sale of the product, not necessarily to ensure that the product fulfills its purpose or provides the most return on investment (ROI) for your business. You need to be able to make an informed decision on whether a product and its price will provide value for your business. Making decisions based on quick statistics or a sales presentation has the potential to be a quick fix, not a sustainable fix, and consequently a waste of your time and/or money.

As a rule of thumb, you should know your specific need before you make a purchase. For example, if you are looking for a new billing software for your accountant, but don’t know exactly which features your accountant uses or needs, how will you pick the right product? You could hear a sales pitch on a very high-end accounting software which provides lots of bells and whistles and sounds great, but its much more complicated and will require training for your accountant to even use it. Or, you could approach multiple companies and find the cheapest software, and it end up being worse quality than what you currently have. In this case, you’ve found the cheapest option, but you’ve wasted money because you still do not have the proper software.

In some scenarios, you’re not even looking for a new product or service, and instead, you are approached by a salesperson via phone or email. Let’s revisit the accounting software example. This time, you already have software, therefore your immediate reaction is to politely decline the phone call almost as soon as you answer. However, what if this software is a much better value or can increase efficiency in your office? Perhaps the product offers features which your current software does not. It might not, but if we are not making informed decisions across the board, we are doing ourselves and our wallets a disservice. The solution to this is to ask questions or even ask for a follow-up meeting in a week. This allows you some time to look into whether or not you need an updated accounting software. If you do, you can research which features this new product would need to offer for it to be better than the software you currently use.

When it comes down to it, knowing is key. Whether you are learning your specific needs before you buy a product or you are taking time to ask questions about a product you’ve been approached with, a little extra legwork and background research will help you see that it’s possible to save money by spending money, and you’ll feel confident in your buying decisions.

When to Rebrand

Feeling Refreshed?

After initially starting a business, the most daunting tasks include creating the logo, slogan, and other branding details. Since your logo is on virtually everything you produce or market, it’s no wonder why business owners will give thousands of dollars to an outside creative agency so they’ll build the perfect logo. As time goes on, even the perfect design and color scheme can become outdated. Whether you are no longer ‘San Diego Blinds’ and now you’re selling to the whole West Coast, or you’re wanting to reinvent yourself in the marketplace to stand out from competitors, updating your logo is oftentimes necessary for your business to continue to grow and stay relevant.

2018-01 When to Rebrand

Change is hard- but it’s good. Consider the merger or acquisition of a new company. It may cost a lot of money, and there’s a lot of paperwork involved and many moving parts. But if you’ve played your cards right, it’s a stepping stone to exponential growth for your business. And speaking of mergers, if you’re merging or acquiring a company, you’ll probably need to update your logo, too. Leo Tolstoy describes change like this: ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.’ While we doubt he was referring to a re-brand, sometimes the marketing strategy we need to implement isn’t about focusing on countering the competitors, but rather it’s an internal change or shift which needs to occur.

Some signs your logo needs an update?

1. You’ve changed your company’s offerings. It no longer makes sense to have a kayak as your logo if you’re now focusing primarily on hunting gear. Right? It may be time for a completely new logo.

2. You’ve merged or acquired a new company. Like we mentioned before if you’re expanding from a local brand to a regional brand, or you now have a much wider range of offerings, keeping the Chicago Skyline in your logo may limit your customers base to only the Chicagoland area. Consider a shift in your logo that does not limit yourself geographically or otherwise.

3. The colors don’t make sense. Trends in colors, styles, and fonts are constantly changing. More importantly than that, colors can help convey the right message. Maybe if you’re ‘All-American Plumbing’ it would make more sense to have a red, white, and blue logo instead of a green and orange one. Do your colors make sense for your brand?

4. You don’t stand out. If you’re using a bland font, your logo looks like every other logo in your line of business, or your logo is too busy/confusing, there’s nothing keeping a customer from going with whichever brand has the lowest prices or is closest to their home. First impressions are important- what is the impression you’re giving?

It’s impossible to control every outside factor which may affect your business. Industry trends, the economy, the weather, and many more factors can change in the blink of an eye. So whether the business is stagnant, declining or slowly growing, consider focusing on improving internal systems and things you can control. Have you thought much about how your logo – the customer’s first impression – could be affecting business?

 

Social Networking

Are You Socially Acceptable?

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. etc. etc. It seems as if every day there is a new social media platform taking the world by storm. As an advertiser, it can be intimidating to try and stay up to date with how to best reach your target audience on these social networks, since we understand the importance of having a digital presence. But each social network serves a different demographic – which networks are right for your line of business? Let’s compare and contrast a few.

2017-12 Social Networks
Facebook. With over 1 billion daily active users, it seems like a no-brainer you’d want your business to reach even a fraction of these users. However, it’s important to understand who uses Facebook. SproutSocial says 88% of people aged 18-29 are on the social network and they are on for an average of 35 minutes per day. But it’s actually those who are 29+ who provide the most engagement. Also, people are using Facebook more and more to seek food, travel, and entertainment recommendations.
So, which businesses do best on Facebook? Primarily B2C businesses. More specifically, retailers with specific products and sales which can produce measurable ROI. Businesses that are B2B or are service based, such as a plumber or insurance agency may not see the same results as a retail business. However, this is not to say other businesses should not be on Facebook. Having a page which is regularly updated with content builds credibility for your brand and helps stay engaged with the local community (for example, posting events happening around the area). Overall, Facebook’s capability to reach so many qualifies it as a resource worth looking into.

 

Instagram. Another huge social media network, with over 800 million monthly active users, that’s focused on photo and video. But is it worth the time, energy or money to have an account for your brand? It may be.
A staggering 59% of all Instagram users are under the age of 30. This means if your line of business is geared towards anyone over the age of 30, which includes a wide range of fields, Instagram may not be worth spending the time on at this day and age. However, if you are able to create a photo or video campaign that is engaging, Instagram may be a great decision for branding and directional marketing. Additionally, Instagram allows users to click and purchase items in the app, which is beneficial for retail companies who are selling items, rather than services. If you’re a B2C company, Instagram can help too. A design firm could use Instagram as their digital portfolio.

 

LinkedIn. Plain and simple, LinkedIn is for B2B marketers. Whether companies are posting updates about acquisitions, finances, or are hiring, users are active on LinkedIn to make moves professionally, and not to make consumerist decisions. LinkedIn is also used to stay connected to current and previous colleagues, industry resources, and business contacts. About 61% of LinkedIn users are between 30 and 64, and they are established in their careers, are married, homeowners, have college degrees, and have the most amount of buying power. Professional in nature, decision makers are seeking the next best thing – personally and professionally – and are the target demographic for your life insurance policies or litigation services.
Before you make any marketing decisions regarding social media, you want to identify your target market and advertising strategy and consider which social media network most closely aligns with that market. Social media is not the end-all-be-all, but if you don’t utilize it, what else are you doing to be seen by your target market?

The Value of the Customer Experience

How do you ensure your customers are having the most positive customer experience plausible?

Is it possible the value of your marketing and advertising results, or lack thereof, is in direct relationship with how your customers interact with your brand and how your customers are treated once they enter the door?

Imagine you have a great marketing strategy, and customers are coming into your storefront, but the sales numbers are still not hitting your desired mark. What would your next step be? Yes, we could throw some more money into marketing and advertising, and it may increase traffic for a short while. However, 9 times out of 10, when the sales aren’t converting, despite strong marketing efforts, it may be time to look internally at the quality of the customer experience.

Business Colleagues Together Teamwork Working Office

There are dozens of tools on the market nowadays to assess website analytics, listen to incoming calls, and to help identify where a breakdown may be happening. Do you know how your customer service representatives are answering the phone? Is your website getting traffic but you’re still not seeing any online transactions? Lastly, how are you responding to requests for refunds, returns, or exchanges? You may find it valuable to audit your incoming calls and do some coaching with your reps on how to better convert phone calls into sales. There’s also a chance customers don’t understand how to add items to their cart online or can’t find the product they are looking for on your website. Customers should be able to easily get in touch with your business for any issues related to their purchases, or they will be less likely to purchase from you again.

Some other things to consider: are your employees on the sales floor warmly greeting each person who walks in the door and answering their questions? Do you find value in ensuring the store is clean and tidy and easy to navigate? If you have social media, is your business responding to incoming comments, messages, and requests for information?

Additionally, do your customers feel valuable when they make a purchase? You may find value in customer appreciation efforts. A hand-written thank you note for buying a pair of glasses from your eye clinic, or a personal phone call for ordering a customized item online can let customers know their specific transaction was valuable. Even simpler, an automated ‘Thank You’ email after a purchase could do the trick, too.

Issues with revenue may sometimes be attributed to external factors or lack of attention to marketing. However, no amount of money invested in radio, print, and tv ads can convert a poor customer experience into sales for your business.

Authenticity 101

Authenticity.

In a culture curated by filters and seemingly flawless images, what does it mean to be authentic? Is it valuable to you for customers to see your brand as authentic? The way the consumer perceives your brand will ultimately determine whether they become your customer or not. Here are some things to consider when thinking about authenticity.

1. Can your customers see the vision behind your brand?
Your target audience may be broad, or it may be specific. Either way, this group of people has a set of values and standards and will make purchases from brands which align with those values. Do your promotional materials, website, social media and customer service convey those core values? It needs to be obvious you are a business who prides itself on its quality assurance and customer satisfaction, always.

2. Is your brand approachable?
As a kid, we would write letters to the President and our favorite celebrities in hopes to get a response and feel ‘seen’ by them. While you may not be the President, interacting with your customer base on social media is a great way to connect with the people who directly support you. Consider a personal response to a ‘fan’ (read: customer) to show there’s some humanity behind your brand name. It’s also great publicity and branding if your message or tweet back to a customer is shared!

2018-01 Authenticity 101

Can customers easily reach a representative on the phone or do they receive an automated machine? If customers feel a company is too big or too busy to care about them personally, they may also feel as if their purchases don’t matter either. Authenticity can be created by simply having a customer service representative available to personally answer phone calls.

3. Is your brand respected?
Are you seen in the community as a name people can stand behind? Is it possible there’s a charity, school, or organization within your community you could support? It’s worth considering community service projects to get you and your staff involved in giving back. This, of course, needs to be genuine, but the kindness will ultimately tie compassion and generosity to your brand.
Oftentimes we think we are completely authentic by owning up to faults or adding a ‘Meet the Team’ page to your website. While these are great strategies and are recommended, there’s added value in going the extra distance. Authenticity creates depth and personality to your brand, and results in higher customer retention rates, brand engagement, and at the end of the day increases your bottom line. What is your brand doing to become more authentic?

How Video has Changed Digital Advertising

What’s the next big thing?

Ever since the age of smartphones began, photo and video have taken the digital advertising space by storm. Within the past 5 years, we have seen Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat rise in popularity, and with the exception of Vine, the visual platforms are thriving. But how important is video marketing to your business? Well, let’s look at the stats.

  • According to Social Media Today, Facebook produces an average of 8 billion video views a day.
  • Every day, 55% of people watch videos online. (Source: Digital Information World)
  • Popular marketing tool Hubspot says 64% of internet users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video.

Video Marketing

The statistics go on and on.

Do you know how to best utilize video? Video Brewery says that 20% of viewers will click away within 10 seconds of the video starting. Just like an attention getter in an essay or novel, the beginning of your video needs to convince the consumer to keep watching. Videos need to connect with the audience it is being targeted to. With today’s technology, the cost of creating a video has decreased dramatically and it doesn’t take much to get started.

Now that Instagram and Facebook have launched ‘live’ features, you can captivate your customer base by simply having a smartphone with a camera. Recent iPhone video quality is high enough, where by the quick press of ‘record’ you can provide current and potential customers a tour of your location, a how-to video on how to use one of your products, insider tips and tricks, or a live question and answer session. Any of these ideas can be done in-house without any sort of professional equipment. And, it keeps your social media followers engaged and interested in what’s new around your business.

As you look down the road to what the future holds for your business’ marketing strategy, video advertising certainly should be on the list of things to consider. For now, at the very least, it should start the conversation about how you and your business will be a part of this next generation of advertising.

Organic Search Ranking and Credibility to the Consumer

What are your customers searching?

“Brunch restaurants nearby”

“Breakfast food near me”

“Where’s the best brunch in Portland?”

Nowadays, search engines seem to solve all life’s hardest questions. And, if your business has a website, you obviously want your website to land at the top of the first page when a potential customer searches for what you do. But oftentimes, business owners don’t fully understand search engine optimization or how to improve their rankings to give them the best chance to be on the first page.

Organic Search Ranking

Statistics show that internet users search more than 3.5 billion queries every day. For your website to be the top results, a combination of attributes need to be in your favor. Everything from page headings, loading speed, mobile optimization, html codes, and many other factors play a part in how soon a consumer will see your brand’s website in their search results. Because of this, it’s important to fully understand how best to create your website and enhance your content for optimal results, or have someone on your team who does.

Another way to improve your search ranking is to have customer reviews. A recent survey reported that 73% of consumers trust a local business more when they have positive reviews. Also, a consumer will read a minimum of 7 reviews before they trust a business. So, the more Yelp, Facebook, and Google reviews you have, the more relevant your business becomes to the specific search. You will increase your chances on being on the first page simply for having more reviews.

An example of the significance of reviews could be making a purchase on Amazon. The average consumer is more likely to buy a new bike from a business with 70 positive reviews than a business with 1 or 2 reviews total. Reviews provide credibility and depth to a business. Finding an effective way to promote your customers to leave good feedback on line is an important part of business today.

The next time you’re doing a Google search, notice what factors you consider when selecting a search result for a local business. Understanding how you (or others you know,) search and make “buying decisions” is important in understanding the importance of getting to the first page on the search engines.