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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Turn Your Customers Into Company Ambassadors

How to Get Referrals from Long-Time Customers

By Wendy Connick

Treat your customers well, and it will return to you tenfold. People who discover something exceptional - like, say, a company that sells a great product and gives them terrific customer service to boot - want to share their discovery with the world. Anytime someone mentions widgets, your customer’s face will light up. “Hey, I bought this great widget a month ago, and the sales guy actually helped me set it up – AND he sent me a Starbucks gift card the next week. Plus I got free shipping!”

Of course, the opposite is also true. If your customer gets poor service or otherwise has a bad experience with your company, they’ll tell the world about that, too. Mediocre customer service will usually leave no impression at all on a customer’s memory.

You can generate enthusiasm in your customers and turn them into your own unofficial sales team simply by giving them outstanding service. That means providing them with a quality of service that’s much greater than they expect to receive. Sure, this requires a lot more effort on your part… but if every customer brings you eight new customers, isn’t it worth it?

In order to get your customers going, you’ll probably need to train them a little bit and get them thinking about your company. After you’ve closed the first sale to a new customer, don’t just forget about them. Make a point of contacting that customer a few days later and “checking in” to see if everything is okay with their new purchase. 

At this point, you can prime the pump by asking for referrals. If you simply come out and say “Do you know anyone else who needs a new widget?” they’ll probably say no. A better approach is to ease into the subject by talking about their purchase. You want to ignite their enthusiasm. Ask how well it works compared to their old widget, or if they are enjoying specific features. Then pop the question: “What do your friends think of it?” (Or if it’s a B2B customer, ask “What do your colleagues think of it?”). 

Hopefully the customer will say something like, “I showed it to my buddy Steve and he thinks it’s the coolest widget he’s ever seen.” Now you can pounce by saying, “That’s great! I’d love to talk to Steve and see if I can set him up with a widget of his own. What phone number can I reach him at?”
Any time you get a referral from a customer, let them know how much you appreciate it – regardless of whether or not you actually made a sale. Send a thank-you note at the very least. If you can, include a premium – a small item with your company’s name on it. Don’t limit yourself to the usual coffee cups and pens, either.

Keep yourself and your company at the front of your customer’s mind by getting in touch with them periodically. A good CRM can help by reminding you when it’s time to touch base with a customer. You can even use the CRM to build email templates and use them for routine contacts. Once your system is in place, keeping in touch is just a matter of adding a few custom tweaks to the email and hitting Send.

When the holidays roll around, send a token of appreciation to every single customer. This can be as small as a free e-card or as significant as a personalized gift. You’ll probably want to send something a bit more substantial to your best customers, especially to customers who sent their friends and colleagues to buy from you. However, don’t send a gift that’s more valuable than what the customer purchased from you over the past year – otherwise it seems more like a bribe than a gift!

By keeping in touch, you keep the customer thinking about your company. And by regularly asking about referrals, you teach them to think of the people they know as people who can benefit from your service, just as they themselves are benefiting. From there it’s only a short step to a customer who actively hustles for sales on your behalf.

Needless to say, if the customer does call you with a problem or question, answer promptly and be as helpful and courteous as possible. Remember, bad customer service will have the customer bad-mouthing you… average customer service won’t inspire any particular reaction… but great customer service will create great word-of-mouth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

9 Routine Task You Should Eliminate from your Workday

By Jane Porter  

Rachel Weeks couldn't get through the workday without constant interruptions. Employees at her Durham, N.C., apparel company, School House, would ask her to sign checks, approve designs and field questions whenever they wanted. Realizing that routine tasks were taking over her day, she started signing checks once a week, sending out packages at a set time each day, and addressing staff questions at weekly meetings.

Those changes have helped Weeks grow the business by developing a new e-commerce site and partnering with a big-box retailer. So far this year, revenue has risen 20 percent, compared with the same period in 2011. "In a small company, there's this tendency to think … if anybody needs something, they can come and find me," she says. "You really have to carve out those hours of uninterrupted work time."

But that means something's got to give. Here are nine daily tasks you probably can eliminate from your workday to help you stay focused and be more productive.

1. Stop overloading your to-do list. You might feel the need to write down everything you need to accomplish each day, but resist making an impossible list of daily tasks, says Peter Turla, a time-management consultant in Dallas. Compiling a lengthy list of things you need to accomplish might seem productive, but you could be doing more harm than good. "It results in too many items at the end of the day that are not completed," says Turla. "That will make you feel stressed out, inadequate and unfocused." Instead, create a manageable list of essential tasks that should be finished on a given day--and save the rest for later.

2. Stop having open-ended meetings. Figure out your priorities before you call a meeting and make them clear to all the attendees, says Doug Sundheim, a New York consultant and executive coach. Too many small-business owners waste half the meeting just getting to what they really want to talk about. Sundheim suggests putting three priority topics at the top of your agenda to avoid getting sidetracked by other issues.

3. Stop answering repetitive questions. If you find yourself answering the same question from clients or employees frequently, you're wasting time, says Peggy Duncan, a personal productivity trainer in Atlanta. Instead, put together an FAQ on your website or create instructional videos that people can access via links at the bottom of your emails. "Figure out better ways to answer [questions] without your having to be involved," she says.

4. Stop taking the same follow-up approach if people ignore you. If you've sent someone an email and the recipient hasn't responded, don't keep firing off more emails. Try communicating in another way--calling, sending a text or visiting in person if it's appropriate, says Jan Yager, author of Work Less, Do More (Sterling, 2008). Too many business owners get bogged down communicating with people inefficiently, she says.

5. Stop eating lunch at your desk. Tempting as it might be to scarf down a sandwich between emails at your computer, don't make it a daily routine. A short break will help you make clearer decisions, Sundheim says. "You get your best ideas when you get up and walk away from your desk."

6. Stop making regular visits to the post office. Instead of going to the post office, schedule mail pickups from your business or home office, Duncan says. You also can buy envelopes with pre-paid postage or invest in an inexpensive scale and postage printer.

7. Stop making piles. Eliminating clutter can boost efficiency, Duncan says. Rather than organize papers in piles whose logic is known only to you, stick to a systematic filing system and eliminate any pieces of paper you no longer need.

8. Stop scheduling appointments by phone or email. You can waste a lot of time just trying to find a time that works for a meeting. Instead, use an automated system that does the work for you, Duncan says. She suggests using software, such as Schedulicity or Appointment Quest to let people schedule appointments with you online.

9. Stop signing every check. Designate a specific day and time for certain tasks, such as signing checks, rather than allow them to randomly interrupt your workflow. Better yet, you can have your signature printed on checks to avoid signing each one. Programs like QuickBooks let you use preprinted checks and keep track of transactions, Duncan says.

Monday, September 24, 2012

7 Ways You’re Wasting Time and Don’t Even Know it

By Jane Porter 

Fourteen months after starting her own insurance agency, Dawn Berry found herself surrounded by stacks of paper. Her inbox was brimming with more than 500 emails that needed to be answered or trashed. And just finding a pen on her cluttered desk became a challenge.

Berry realized she needed to get smarter about managing time and making Provident Insurance Agency in Florissant, Mo., run more smoothly. She hired a productivity coach and saw immediate results. She began completing tasks that would take less than two minutes right away and delegated routine work to her assistant so she could focus on selling. Now, at the end of each day, she has fewer than 50 emails waiting in her inbox. In 2011, by better managing her time, Berry grew her business to a point where she could hire her first full-time employee, making her all the more able to focus on the important aspects of the company. "I have a do-it-now mentality," she says.
If you feel as overwhelmed as Berry did, you may need to rethink how you use your time. Here are seven ways you may be wasting time without even realizing it.

1. You overload on administrative work. If you've spent three hours reconciling a bank statement, you're making poor use of your time. Too often, small-business owners waste time on tasks they don't like or aren't even good at. What's more, they often expend energy avoiding such tasks and then spend more time than necessary doing them, says Cathy Sexton, the St. Louis, Mo., productivity coach who helped Berry. "If we just hired it out, it would be less expensive," Sexton says of tasks like bookkeeping and website maintenance. "It's looking at your time and putting a value on it."

2. You put off quick tasks. If you can pay a bill or schedule an appointment in a couple of minutes, do it immediately. Putting chores aside for later—no matter how mundane—is a common way small-business owners waste time, says David Allen, author of the runaway bestseller Getting Things Done (Viking 2001). People often set emails aside for later, for example, and then have to search for them and reread them. "It will take you more time to remember it later than just doing it now," Allen says.

3. You micromanage employees. Too many employees need their hand held throughout the day, says Jason Jennings, author of The Reinventors - How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change (Portfolio, 2012). As a result, small-business owners often waste precious time micromanaging such workers just to make sure they do their jobs properly. If you have to guide an employee through every aspect of the job and he isn't making progress toward working independently, Jennings advises that you let him go. Harsh as it may seem, firing people who are slowing you down may be the best solution for your business.

4. You let daily developments drive you. Putting out tiny fires throughout the day is a big misuse of time, Allen says. Rather than thinking about strategies to expand your business, you're bogged down dealing with every issue that comes your way minute-by-minute. "That's not making good priority decisions about things." To stay focused on what really matters, try to block out time each day for your strategic priorities.

5. You don't have a clear social-media strategy. Limiting the amount of time you spend on social media sites will certainly help your productivity. But even if you devote only one hour each day to social media activity, you will still be wasting time if you don't have a game plan, Sexton says. "Social media is part of your marketing plan. You really need to understand what your desired results are."

6. You try to reinvent the wheel. Hanging onto projects or products that no longer look promising is a big time-suck, Jennings says. "The reason people are stymied and can't get stuff done is because they are constantly reinventing the wheel. They can't let go." Stop and ask yourself, "How promising does this endeavor look?" Be honest with yourself and decide if it's time to drop it and move on.

7. You repeat the same things over and over. Customer communication is important, but if you always have to answer the same questions from different customers, you're wasting time, says Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future (Crown Business, 2012). Rather than starting from scratch each time, Sexton recommends creating a template for such routine tasks as email responses to common queries, invoices, client letters and meeting agendas.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 Tricks for a Fabulous Workday

It takes just as much effort to have a wonderful day as it does to have a miserable one. Why not enjoy yourself?

By Geoffrey James

Want to have the best workday ever?  Day after day?  It's not as difficult as you think.

These 10 tweaks to your everyday behavior will virtually guarantee you a day that's not just enjoyable but allows you to get more done than you ever thought possible.

1. Start with 15 minutes of positive input.
It's easier to achieve and maintain a positive attitude if you have a "library" of positive thoughts in your head, so you can draw upon them if the day doesn't go exactly as you'd prefer. Start each day by reading (or listening to) an inspirational book to ensure that you have just such a resource at hand.

2. Tie your work to your life's goals.
Always remember that there's a deeper reason why you go to work and why you chose your current role. Maybe it's to support your family, to change the world in some way, to help your customers, to make a difference: Whatever the deeper motivation, remind yourself that this workday--today--is the opportunity to accomplish part of that deeper and more important goal.

3. Use your commute wisely.
Most people waste their commute time listening to the news or (worse, especially if they're driving) making calls, texting, or answering emails. In fact, your commute time is the perfect time to get yourself pumped up for the day, and there's no better way to do this than to listen to music that truly inspires you and gets you in the right mood. Don't depend on a DJ: Make your own mixes!

4. Stick a smile on your face.
It's likely, if you followed the first three steps, that you'll already be smiling. If not, stick a smile on your face anyway. It doesn't matter if it feels fake: Research has shown that even the most forced of smiles genuinely reduces stress and makes you happier. Does this mean you should be grinning like the Joker in the Batman comics? Well, yes, if that's the best you can do. But something a bit more relaxed might be less alarming to co-workers.

5. Express a positive mood.
When most people are asked social greetings--questions such as "How are you?" or "What's up?"--they typically say something neutral ("I'm OK") or negative, like "Hangin' in there." That kind of talk programs your brain for failure.

Instead, if anyone inquires, say something positive and enthusiastic, like: "Fantastic!" or "I'm having a wonderful day!" It's true that there are some people whom this annoys--but these are people you should be avoiding anyway. (See No. 7, below.)

6. Do what's important first.
Everybody complains about having too much to do, but few people do anything about it. As I explained in "The Surprising Secret of Time Management," 20% of your activities are going to produce 80% of your results.  So do that 20% first, before you get to the 80% of your activities that is mostly wasted time. You'll get more done, and you'll get better results.

7. Avoid negative people.
If you've been following Steps 1 through 6, you'll probably find that the most negative people in your orbit will be avoiding you, while the positive people will want to hang out with you and help you. Though it's true you can't avoid all the Debbie Downers, you can certainly find something else to do when they start grousing about stuff they won't or can't change.

8. Don't work long hours.
Long hours are simply a bad idea. For one thing, as I have pointed out before: Long hours, after a short burst of productivity, actually make you less productive. But frankly, if you've followed Steps 1 through 7, you'll be getting so much done that you won't need to work those long hours.

9. Wind down and relax.
Once you're done with the workday, fill the remainder of your hours with non-work related activities that bring you joy and help you relax. The analogy of "recharge your batteries" is valid. Failing to take time to relax and stop thinking about work guarantees that you'll begin the next day with a "hangover" of resentment that will leach the joy out of what can, and should be, a positive work experience. overconcentration.

10. End your day with 15 minutes of gratitude.
As I pointed out in "The True Secret of Success," exercising your "gratitude muscle" is the best way to make certain that you experience more success. Before you go to sleep, get out a tablet (paper or electric), and record everything that happened during the day about which you are (or could be) grateful.

You'll sleep better and be ready for tomorrow--which will probably be even more fabulous than today.

But What About ...
Now, I know some of this can sound like a stretch. It may take a leap of faith to give this approach a try. But before you push back too much, let me answer some of the questions I sometimes hear.
  • What if something really horrible happens during the day? You'll be much better prepared to deal with challenges than if you were already halfway to miserable--which is how most people go through their workday.
  • What if I simply have to deal with a negative person? Tune out the negativity. Learn to shrug it off. If the negativity becomes too much of a burden, start using the extra energy you're producing to reorganize your team or (if the person is outside your company) find a different partner.
  • What if I'm too depressed to do any of this? If that's the case, you may need professional help. None of these tricks require more time and effort than making yourself miserable, however.
  • Do these tricks really work? Yes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to Get Referrals and How They can Boost Your Sales

By Wendy Connick

Referrals – otherwise known as getting someone to give you warm leads to new prospects – are valuable for salespeople in all industries. Yet it's incredible how few salespeople actively canvass for referrals. 

Studies show that a salesperson is six times more likely to close a sale to a referred lead as opposed to a cold lead. That means you can generate six times as many sales if you focus on getting referrals than if you spent that time cold calling! A huge increase in sales and, as a bonus, less cold calling to do – what more can you ask for? And if you open your eyes, you'll see opportunities for referrals all around you.

Existing Customers
The easiest and friendliest referral source. In fact, if you treat them right, they may well go out and do some selling for you! That's when you get those wonderful windfall calls from someone's co-worker or uncle saying, “I hear you sell the best widgets in town. I'd like to buy 40 of them.”

But don't wait for your customers to do all the work for you – pick up the phone and ask for the referral. It's a good idea anyway to check in with your customers a few weeks or months after the sale. You can ask them how they're enjoying the product, find out if they have any questions, and then pop the question: “Who else do you know who can benefit from this product, as you have?”

New Customers
Just after you've closed someone is the best time to get referrals from them, because they're excited about their new purchase. Some salespeople are nervous about asking for referrals at this point because they just want to get out of there in case the prospect changes their mind! Well, don't worry about this. Unless you've used high pressure tactics to intimidate someone into buying (don't do this) your new customer is probably thrilled and enthusiastic. Hit them up now, while their energy is at its peak!

Prospects You Couldn't Close
If you pitch a prospect and they turn you down, don't just bolt out the door. Get a referral or two, and you'll have changed a loss into a win.

You're probably shaking your head and thinking, “That's crazy-talk. Why would a person who wouldn't even buy from me give me referrals?” A lot of sales fall through not because the prospect hates you or your product, but because they just aren't a good fit. In that case, it's the perfect opportunity to find out if they know someone who is a good fit.

Everyone Else
Literally anyone you meet under any circumstances can give you a referral. After all, the average person knows in excess of 250 other people. Do you really think that none of those hundreds of people are a good fit for your products? Of course not. Ask everyone – your dry-cleaner, your accountant, your neighbor, even the person standing behind you in the supermarket checkout. You'll be amazed how many leads will drop into your lap as a result of a brief conversation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Referral Marketing - Understanding the Value of Referral Business

By Laura Lake

When thinking about the importance of referral marketing I'm always reminded of an incident that happened at a fitness center. I made a decision to refocus on my fitness regimen by joining a gym. I was referred to a gym by a friend of mine, so a few of my friends and I called the fitness center to schedule an orientation appointment. After touring the facility we decided to join the gym and agreed to sign up for a membership. The person that had referred us was with us, so obviously being in the sales and marketing business I asked the representative what our friend would get for referring us to them. His response, "I can give her a water bottle."

This response floored me, I could not believe that this fitness center had no referral program. A water bottle? I can go to a discount store and purchase one for under $5.00 yet this person brought them new business and that was how they would show their appreciation? 

Think about this, the fitness center didn't have to pay for an advertisement, they hadn't sent us a mailing, so their outgoing costs for this new business was zero. In response to the referral given to them by a current customer, they had over $300 laying on the desk and two people signing membership agreements. 

Do you think their referral offer was adequate? 

I think sometimes we become so focused on our advertisements and our marketing plans that we ignore the basics. A referral program should be in place for every business, regardless of the size of the business.
Referrals are the most powerful form of marketing that you can use and it's also the least expensive. Your referrals have more of an impact than any other marketing strategy or advertisement. Have you looked at your referral program lately? Perhaps it's time to evaluate and calculate the value of your referrals and develop a program that rewards current clients and customers for sending you new business. 

A referral program should take the following three things into consideration:
  • Make it worth your customers time.
  • Be creative, be generous, and be reliable.
  • Make sure what you offer has value to your customers.
If a customer thinks enough of you to refer someone, show your appreciation promptly and generously - don't offer them a water bottle.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

7 Deadly Sins of Business Meetings Pt. 2

By Lisa Girard 
4. Meetings that harp on setbacks instead of strategies. One of Bradt's clients spent 95 percent of each meeting having plant managers explain why their numbers weren't up to par and only 5 percent planning future strategies. Not surprisingly, Brandt says, everyone came out of the meeting with a long face.
Tip: Use the past as a platform for understanding and planning future actions, not "a battering ram to beat people up," Bradt says. The collective brainpower in the room should be used to avoid mistakes going forward.

5. Meetings that disrupt the most productive hours. Many companies hold meetings in the morning, interrupting employees' most productive hours, says Jackie Freiberg, co-author of Nanovation: How a Little Car Can Teach the World to Think Big and Act Bold (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

Tip: Schedule meetings in the afternoon, when escaping the cubicle can be a welcome relief.

6. Meetings that are held in a bland environment. At the vast majority of meetings, employees gather around a conference table and keep their gaze focused on the leader at the head of the table. Freiberg believes this format does little to stimulate discussion and creative ideas.

Tip: Take your employees on a "walking" meeting in the park or just around the building and parking lot. "When you're not eye to eye, you have the guts to say certain things," Freiberg says. "And when walking, you look at the world differently, which stimulates fresh ideas."

7. Meetings that are too formal and rigid. Few meeting leaders have a sense of humor. The result is a room full of bored, restless employees, says Eric Chester, author of Reviving Work Ethic (Greenleaf Books, 2012).

Tip: Break up the meeting with music, a video, jokes or an engaging story, Chester says. "In the age of YouTube and iTunes, there's simply no reason to not inject a bit of levity in a meeting to gain attention, disarm negativity and generate enthusiasm

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

7 Deadly Sins of Business Meetings Pt. 1

By Lisa Girard 
Skype meetings used to be a weekly ritual for InQuicker, a health-care IT company with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Vancouver, B.C. "It had always felt a bit contrived to meet weekly," says company co-founder and CEO, Michael Brody-Waite. "I think it hurt morale to place what is essentially a giant productivity speed bump in the middle of every work week. When we really thought about it, there weren't too many issues coming up in our weekly meetings that needed everyone's attention."

InQuicker finally changed the meeting schedule to once a month and began using Google Hangouts so that 10 people can share the screen in a less formal setting. That made everyone happier—and more productive.
InQuicker is not alone when it comes to dysfunctional meetings. For many businesses, routine meetings can lack focus and a clear agenda and end up wasting time and boring people.

"The last thing a meeting organizer wants is their attendees to be sitting in a conference room or on the phone wondering what the meeting is for, why they were asked to join, or what the output will be," says Kathryn Hammond, owner of BlueSpire Strategic Marketing, a Minneapolis-based marketing company. "If a meeting doesn't have a defined agenda and concrete next steps, I can almost guarantee you will see people playing with their phones or hear people typing in the background."

Here, seven deadly sins to watch for in business meetings -- and tips on how to redeem yourself.

1. Meetings that become useless rituals. Companies frequently meet simply because it's time for their weekly, monthly or annual sales meeting. "Meetings that are ritualistic instead of necessary are often boring, and attendees eventually flip an 'off switch' in their brains," says Joe Calloway, business strategy consultant and author of Becoming A Category of One (John Wiley, 2003).

Tip: First, reexamine your routine. "Do not have a meeting unless you can very specifically define why it's necessary and how it will advance the strategy of the organization," he says. Also, create a specific agenda and send it out early enough for people to prepare.

2. Meetings that are a one-way conversation. People often tune out monotone lecturers and mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations. "A one-way speech is generally one of the least effective ways of teaching, informing or motivating people to action," Calloway says.

Tip: Encourage your team to speak up, exchange ideas and comment on what they've heard. If you show PowerPoint slides, make them visually interesting and keep words and numbers to a minimum.

3. Meetings with lax leadership. In today's "virtual" conference rooms, time is often wasted waiting for people to join the call and then getting stragglers up to speed on what they missed. "This punishes the people who joined the meeting on time with the likelihood you'll run over, leaving employees stressed out playing catch-up on the rest of their day," says Gary Bradt, business strategy expert and author of The Ring in the Rubble (McGraw Hill, 2007).

Tip: Choose a leader who is organized and forceful, leaving latecomers to catch up on their own. "Use tact, of course – you don't have to be Attila the Hun – but if you're too nice, it allows too much nonsense to go on," Bradt says.

Stay tuned for more tips.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Out of Sight is Out of Mind

By Kelli C. Holmes

I REALY want to share this message with you. I have been involved in, and/or working in the “Referral Group/Network Group” industry for over 25 years. I have been a member of a referral organization, spent 10 years as an executive with this large referral organization, and my company, TEAM Referral Network, has been around for 10 years. I have also networked across the country and with people in the international market as well. I am recognized as an expert in the industry and many companies and groups have paid me to speak on this topic.

So…have I qualified myself as a person who knows what she’s talking about yet? Because I could go on…ok, I’ll stop. But the bold statement I am about to make will be questioned by many of you reading this, but here goes anyway… out of sight is out of mind. Yes, it is.

Many (and I do mean many) people operate on the assumption that once they have established a business relationships with people that little to no “continuing nurturing” is needed. I cannot tell you how many people have told me directly or indicated to me that they do not need TEAM anymore because they have already established their relationships with the members. Their thought process is…I’m not going to get anything NEW and I will continue to get their referrals anyway.  (Never mind the fact that chapters have new members and visitors on a regular basis that they could meet.) But, what they also forget about is… out of sight is out of mind. 

Once you are no longer part of a group, your networking partners can (and will) forget about you. Yes, occasionally former members will continue to get referrals but not nearly as much as when they were a part of the group. And if (or should I say when) another person joins who does what you do, and they are at the meeting each week sharing their commercials, listening to everybody else's commercials, bringing referrals….guess who they are going to give their referrals to? Yup! The new person! Out of sight really is out of mind!!!

Kelli C. Holmes, author of “Effective Networking”,  shows you a better, smarter way to grow your business through powerful business relationships.  Kelli is the Founder of TEAM Referral Network, a professional referral organization that turns success-oriented business people into a strong team of networking professionals who work together to build their business by referral.  TEAM’s motto is Together Everyone Achieves More.  For more information visit their website or call (866)311-TEAM.     

Monday, September 10, 2012

3 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting to Facebook

By Brian Patrick Eha 
The Holy Grail of social media outreach on Facebook is "engagement" -- going beyond broadcasting to interact with your fans. While some businesses might use Facebook to drive traffic to their own websites, the more that people are "Liking" and commenting on your posts and sharing your content with their own networks, the more brand loyalty you can build.

Facebook uses its "Edgerank" algorithm to measure fan engagement and to determine which of your updates appear in the News Feeds of your fans. Your Edgerank score goes up when fans "Like" and comment more on your updates which, in turn, means your posts will be seen by more people.

While there's no tried-and-true formula for everyone to maximize engagement all the time, outreach on Facebook doesn't have to be like blindly throwing darts at a board. Here are three questions to ask yourself to make sure your Facebook posts are prompting maximum engagement:

1. Will this add value to the people I'm trying to connect with?
Social media is a "soft-sell medium," says Mark Evans, a social media consultant. That means you should be trying provide your fans with some kind of value instead of hitting them over the head with a sales pitch.

Nevertheless, one of the goals of social media outreach, as with other types of marketing, is to spark conversion. The way to achieve this on Facebook is to come up with "educational and entertaining wall posts and promotions," says Todd Newman, founder of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based online social media agency SummaSocial. For example, one of Newman's clients raffled off an iPad 2 to fans of his Facebook page -- and gained nearly 1,200 fans as a result.

2. Will this update seem fresh to my fans?
If all your updates sound the same, your outreach can grow stale and your audience might stop engaging. "You can post links to interesting articles, photographs and videos," Evans suggests. "You can create contests and polls."

To help keep your updates fresh, and fans coming back to your page, Newman recommends this weekly posting schedule, or something similar: 

Mentor Monday: Share videos and posts that educate your audience.
Trivia Tuesday: Encourage fans to engage and share their opinions.
Watch Us Wednesday: Publicize in-office events and community involvement.
Thankful Thursday: Offer an incentive and play up your strengths.
Fan Friday: Feature and reward your star fans.

The goal, Evans says, is to create "a content potpourri that keeps people coming back, because they don't know what to expect."

3. Is this post in line with my metrics?
To understand what types of updates resonate with your audience, use the administrator panel on your Facebook page to monitor your metrics. Page Insights can be especially crucial, providing a weekly breakdown -- by age, gender and geographic location -- of who likes your content and who's talking about it.

For instance, if you've been posting U.S.-related content but discover that nearly half of your fans live in India, you might consider rethinking your approach. You could post special updates and promotions on major Indian holidays such as Diwali in addition to Labor Day and other U.S. holidays.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

“Relationship Marketing…A better, smarter way of doing business”

By Kelli C. Holmes

Determine the value of referrals to your business.

  • Are referrals an important part of your business?

  • What percentage of your business comes from referrals?

  • What percentage of your business do you want to come from referrals?

  • How are you currently developing referrals for your business?

  • What or who are the sources of your referrals?  Your clients?  Friends?  Contacts?

  • What is the basis for you to receive referrals?  Your reputation?  Credibility?  Quality of products or services?

Once you have determined the value of referrals to your business, look for ways to develop good referral sources for your business.  Ask yourself the following:

Are you professionally visible?  Being an “expert” is not enough.  You need to be visible, approachable, understood, trusted and be able to leave a lasting impression.  Check your professional visibility by answering these questions.

  • How visible am I in my community?

  • Do people seek me out for my expertise, products or service?

  • Is my impression better than my competitors?

  • Do people view me as a credible resource?

  • How do people react when I present information about my products or services?

  • Are my “networking” activities productive?

Networking Do’s and Don’ts:
·        Have a networking plan in place.  Know what you want to achieve from your networking        activities and how you plan to get it.
  • Know your own strengths, talents and resources.  Listen for when a situation may be right.
  • Help others build relationships.  Make only those offers you intend to fulfill.  Relationship marketing only works when you are genuine.
  • Have business cards with you at all times.
  • Develop a system to track your networking activities and the results.
  • Follow up promptly and professionally on the referrals you receive.  Remember to thank the person who referred you.


  • Wait until you need a network to develop one.   It takes time to develop relationships.
·        Give out your business card indiscriminately.  Ask for a business card from someone you would like to give your business card to.
·        Don’t be afraid to jump in and network!  Networking is a contact sport, it requires your physical presence.

Kelli C. Holmes is the Founder of TEAM Referral Network, a professional referral organization that turns success-oriented business people into a strong team of networking professionals who work together to build their businesses by referral.  Relationship marketing is a better, smarter way of doing business.  For more information visit their website or call (866)311-TEAM.       

Thursday, September 6, 2012

3 Ways to Use Facebook Groups to Attract and Keep Customers

By Amy Porterfield       

Many business owners think about Facebook in a one-dimensional way: Create a page of your own where you can promote your brand and products or services. But there's potentially a lot more to it than that. One underutilized strategy is creating Facebook groups, which provide an easy way to segment customers. With groups, you can create communities around particular products, improve customer service, provide a networking forum for customers and even drive new sales.

You segment your email list, right? So why not segment your Facebook community, too? To create a group, login to your Facebook account, go to the Home page and in the left column you will see an option to "Create a Group."

So far, few business owners are using Facebook groups for customer retention and acquisition. Get a jump on the competition by trying out these three Facebook group strategies:

1. Use closed groups as a customer support hub.
A closed Facebook group can be used to deliver support to a specific customer segment, cutting down on customer email clutter and providing a central place to get feedback on what is and isn't working for your business. For example, I have closed groups for all my online training programs to offer support to my clients and give them a chance to network with each other.

The goal is to generate an open dialogue between you and your customers by providing a special spot for them to ask questions. Although Facebook users can see who is in the group, they can’t see members’ posts without joining the group. That way, group members don’t worry that their questions will end up in a friend’s newsfeed.

Use the group to share documents, such as FAQs, and appoint one of your community managers to jump in and answer customer questions. This can also be an ideal forum for announcing product updates, sharing discounts and inviting customers to events and contests. Group members who have already made a purchase are usually more likely to engage with your brand again, especially if they’re happy with the customer service.

2. Use 'secret' members-only groups as networking hubs for current customers.
If your goal on Facebook is to create a tribe-like community, then a secret, members-only group can be worth investigating. Unlike closed groups, only members can see who is in the group.

Secret groups allow you to create a personalized, private feedback loop, which can be a priceless engagement and retention tool. They’re ideal for providing extra value to your VIP-level clients and customers.

A private group may be especially appropriate for businesses whose products and services have a more exclusive audience, such as coaching organizations and training and consulting providers. The closed group atmosphere can create a sense of exclusivity and your clients will get direct access to you and your team.

I use secret groups both for retention and customer acquisition. A private group provides a forum where my consulting clients can network and share strategies with other marketing professionals. Clients love having a place to candidly ask me and experts in the group for feedback.

It’s been such a popular feature that I now use secret groups with all of my products. As a result, I’ve seen a 30 percent increase in returning customers after I introduce a new program. Also, my return rate has dropped because customers know I am there to support them when they have issues.

3. Use open groups to build awareness, authority and interest in your brand.
There already are plenty of open groups on Facebook. The narrower the niche or hyper-local the group, the more likely it is to be lively and engaged -- such as these local “free-cycling” and photographer groups.

Start or join an open group focused on your business niche. Use it not to sell your products directly, but rather to establish yourself as an expert and to network with others in your industry. For example, if you edit photographs for a living, a photography group is a way to share your expertise and provide relevant content in a more personal and community-focused way than with a brand page.

For all types of Facebook groups, use the “About” tab to outline the purpose and goals. Create and post membership guidelines to the "Documents" tab, especially for closed and secret groups, because you may want to allow members to invite friends when appropriate.

And focus more on participation than messaging. Groups are about dialogue, not direct sales. Encourage customers to interact and post often.