How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 5: Build Trust With Reviews

Welcome to Part 5 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

Last week, we discussed how to utilize social media to get great digital word of mouth.

Today, we’ll show you how engaging in online reviews can help show your business in its best light!

Build Trust With Reviews

Reviews about your business can be the key to new customers selecting your services over a competitor. Check to see what sites you could potentially be reviewed on.  Yelp, Google Reviews, Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay, Angie’s List, etc.

If you aren’t currently listed, ask a regular customer to get you started. Of course, it is not okay to offer payment to a reviewer! But asking someone you know who is already a patron, and likely has good things to say, is an easy and positive way to get reviews going. It usually only takes a few minutes of someone’s time. And once you are listed and easy to find, other reviewers you don’t know will jump on board.

Stay active on social media outlets like Facebook. Occasionally remind your followers that you are available for review on different sites. If someone makes a great comment about your business, respond quickly with a big thank you. And be sure to save their quote for use later on your website or for a status update.

Don’t Be Afraid

It is easy to be leery of opening your company up for reviews. You might be thinking “What if someone has a negative comment? What if they point out a shortcoming that I don’t want to broadcast to the whole world?”

But something to keep in mind is no business can serve all their customers perfectly and to each individual’s standards 100% of the time.

Look at a negative comment as an opportunity to engage with your customers – Both the negative reviewer and potential customers reading the dialogue online.

Respond to negative comments as quickly as you can.

Don’t ignore the comments even if you don’t understand how they could have happened or if the specifics are inaccurate. You can save face simply by being polite and apologizing for any inconvenience.

Showing yourself as a business that is engaged in the community, online and off, gives validity to your brand. This exchange that happens in public makes trusting your company easier for a new customer Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 5: Build Trust With Reviews” »

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 4: Social Media

Welcome to Part 4 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

Last week, we talked about how to reach out to your community to build trust and get your business noticed.

Today, we’ll discuss how utilizing social media is your online word of mouth jackpot!

Social Media = Electronic Word Of Mouth

If you haven’t noticed, social media means far more than baby pictures and cat videos. It is time to dust off your username and password. Not only should your company have an online presence on social media, it should stay current and active.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter exist to keep people connected, and when people are connected, they talk about things – surprise! Sure, some of those things are baby pictures and cat videos, but when logging in they also talk about where they are going, what they are buying and why.

For this reason, social media can be even more potent that traditional word of mouth because one click on a photo can lead a potential customer right to you. That doesn’t happen in person so take advantage!

Make Your Online Presence Known

You can decide how simple or complex your website needs to be. And you should select which social media platforms to utilize. Because honestly, you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t spare the time to maintain both a Youtube channel and a Twitter account then don’t.

Just make sure that you get involved somewhere and make it work for your shop.

Make sure you have your business’s info page complete. Keep the phone and email listing up-to-date. Be sure to have a relevant profile picture like your company logo, a nice headshot or a photo of your products or storefront. No kids, no cats. Save that for your personal page.

Then work to get likes, followers and subscribers. Seek out friends, family, and regulars to get things started. Be sure to ask customers in the store to “like” your shop to get all updates on sales and promotions. Don’t forget to post signs in your store letting customers know where they can find you online.

Stay Current. Stay Hot.

Nothing looks worse to a customer visiting your website or profile page than seeing that nothing has changed for months! A lot happens at your business everyday so show it. Add photographs of your store and your products so new visitors can get a sense of what shopping with you is like. When you get a cool new product in, post about it & share a photo.

Learn about #hashtags and use them! Ask fun questions in your status updates and respond to the answers. There are so many ways to stay engaged. Figure out what works for you and do it often.

All of this activity does take time. But if you spend just a little time each day, every other day, even once a week that is better than nothing for months at a time. There is much that can be accomplished by Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 4: Social Media” »

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 3: Reach Out To The Community

Welcome to Part 3 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

To start the series we introduced a company that utilizes word of mouth advertising. Last week, we discussed why it is important to find your business’s niche to offer your customers something no one else has.

Today, we’ll talk about reaching out to your community to make an impression worth talking about.

Reach Out To The Community

The best way to get people to recommend your business is to make them remember you! Smart branding, clever ads, and big sales help but nothing beats the one-on-one approach with a local customer.

This is one way to make sure you stick fast in the minds of your customers is draw them into your shop for an enjoyable reason. Offer your community a moment of beauty, art or leisure. This in turn becomes an opportunity to let your customers get to know you, the business owner, as well as your key employees.

You are the face of your business and customers will remember meeting you way more than your shop logo.

What Works?

Take a look at our example company, Arclight Theater. They partner with the vibrant film community in Los Angeles and have constantly changing art galleries that feature movie props and artwork from current films. These are open to the public and encourage movie-goers as well as the causal passerby to take a look and ask questions.

Reach out to your community in a way that makes sense for your business.

How To Start

Do you have room to offer a gallery wall for local artists? Can you give a one-day workshop demonstration?

Consider hosting a one-day open house event. Play some music, offer some simple refreshments like lemon water and cookies or nuts and walk around talking to people. Seasonal events can bring you even more foot traffic so think about what holiday coming up would lend itself to a cool reason for your store to get friendly.

Don’t be tempted to act purely as a salesman in this situation just because new customers are in your shop. Answer any questions, sure, but this event is about meeting people face to face as a member of the community.

Just a short “Hello. Thanks for coming to visit us!” makes customers comfortable and can make an impression they will remember.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to increase your online word of mouth exposure by taking advantage of social media!

Read How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 1: What’s The Buzz?
Read How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 2: Find Your Niche!

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 2: Find Your Niche!

Thanks for checking out Part 2 of How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure, a 5 part series that details how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

Last week, we introduced a Los Angeles based company that only uses word of mouth advertising to build a successful business in a highly competitive city.  This week we’ll break down what they are doing right and how you can apply these important concepts to your business to get customers to refer others straight to your door.

Find Your Niche!

While this is common advice in basic business planning, in order to to make your business speak to people, you might need to consider what your shop offers to the public as well as what your competitors’ offer.

Customers always have options, even if that option is just to shop online. So if your products are incredible, but your shop takes a lackluster approach to selling it, you might need to revisit your business plan.

It takes a break from the norm to make an impression on someone that in turn leads to them recommending your business. Offer something that one else else does!

How One Company Found A Sweet Spot

Going back to our example company, Arclight decided that watching movies in sub-par theaters with boring ads before the show, lame snacks, and tons of disruptions was not the way they wanted to run their theater.

So their property features unique “black box” theaters with state of the art sound and projection. They choose not to sell advertising space before the main feature and only show 5 minutes of movie trailers before each film. Most chain theaters have 20 minutes of advertising before the previews even start!

Arclight’s concession stand, the actual money-maker of every theater, offers more than huge sodas and popcorn. They have gourmet hot dogs with unique toppings, real butter for the popcorn, premium ice cream bars, and fresh caramel corn that is made every day in-house!

Ushers are trained to not allow seating after 5 minutes into a showtime so an audience isn’t inconvenienced with latecomers. Try getting that type of service at your local theater.

By creating a high standard of quality, this company fulfilled a niche that was missing in the most film-centric city on the planet.  Whatever special touch you can add to your business is completely up to you, the owner, but that difference is crucial in setting you apart.

Start Examining Your Marketing Strengths

Think about what your business does best. Is there a way to expand on your existing structure that might get you noticed? Finding a good niche can be challenging so start small and be consistent. Always offer that product or service so your customers, new and old, can rely on it.

Is there a line of popular products that aren’t currently offered in your area? Stock up! What about a year-round personalized wrapping service? Walking out of a shop with a pretty wrapped package makes it a fun and memorable gift shopping experience.

Ask yourself where are other shops falling short and how can you pick up the slack. This will lead you to getting noticed.

In Retail Marketing – No Apologies Necessary

If you are offering the best of the best, don’t apologize for the high ticket price. Remember there will be customers that complain about prices no matter what. You should be focusing on a quality and service standard you strongly believe in. Prepare yourself and your employees with a list of easy to understand reasons as to why your prices are set.  If you are the best, you should charge for it.

Of course freebies never hurt and people love to feel like they got something for nothing. Even if that something is very small. (Arclight offered free parking with validation which in downtown LA is a huge deal) Can you offer free samples of gourmet foods, coffee, or tea? Big perks for regulars? Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 2: Find Your Niche!” »

Marketing Tip of the Week: Create a Clear Identity

A term commonly tossed around any marketing department is “branding.” In a nutshell, branding is the image, or identity, by which your business is known to the public. This can refer to a logo, and often logos are part of branding, but it is by no means limited to a logo. Branding is an overall concept. For example, when I say “KFC” what comes to mind? Did you immediately think of chicken? I bet you did. Even if you attached other images as well, such as the man in a white suit, you ultimately associated it with chicken. That’s branding.

Contrary to popular belief, branding is not limited to large national chains. Every business in every city in the country has a brand, a way in which you are viewed by the community at large. The question then becomes, are you aware of it?

Discover Your Existing Identity

As a business owner, you like to think that you excel at everything, but the truth is that everyone who patrons your store sees your business as having one particular quality that separates it from all the others. Interestingly enough, most of these people will see the same thing, but it may not be what you think. So how do you find out how your customers identify your business? Ask!

The best way to determine how people view your business is to ask them. Hand customers a card that asks them to identify the most important thing they considered when choosing to patron your store, and offer them a % discount on an item when they bring it back or on their current purchase if they fill it out immediately. Polling your customers for a month will give you a good idea of your identity, and that knowledge will allow you to begin marketing to your strength!

Create a Clear Identity

So what happens if you perform the poll and discover that the responses are all across the board? Does that mean you are good at everything? Unfortunately, no. It means you do everything at least passably well, but you excel at nothing. This, in turn, means that you’re not getting all the business that you should be receiving. You need to focus on one aspect of your business that you wish to be known for and communicate that to your employees. Then formulate a plan to make that quality stand out while maintaining your performance in all other areas.

For example, if you are a gift shop, perhaps you want to be the shining example of customer service. First you need to define what that means. For more detailed information on how to define customer service for your business, check out my previous marketing tip on customer service here. Once you know what customer service means, communicate that to your employees and then hold contests to see who can do the best job of implementing it.

If you identify customer service as knowing and calling each customer by name, hold a contest to see who can use customer’s names the most without having to ask them first. This will both motivate your employees to learn your customer’s names and get them comfortable with using them! Internal contests are a great way to introduce new activities for just this reason. Your employees will be able to help alleviate any fear or apprehension they feel about the new changes in the roaring fires of inner-store competition.

Market Your Identity

Now that you know how customer’s already see you, or you’ve chosen to take the reins and showcase a particular aspect that you want them to notice, it’s time to market Continue reading “Marketing Tip of the Week: Create a Clear Identity” »

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 1: What’s The Buzz?

How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure is a 5 part series that details
how you can create a buzz-worthy business.

As a small business, you are looking for all the exposure you can get to help bring in new customers and get them to return.

We’re not talking about print ads or airtime but something that has been around much longer and has an impressive track record when it comes to bringing in customers. Word of mouth advertising!

So before you shell out for a commercial or lament because you don’t have the budget for even a simple 30 second spot, take stock of your word of mouth approach. It may be the oldest form of advertising but it is guaranteed to get you new customers.

Who Uses Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies?

When I was living in Los Angeles, I briefly worked at an incredible theater called Arclight. At that time, there was only one Arclight theater and it was widely considered the best in a city of 3.8 million people. There were many reasons for this.

They own and screen films in the original Cinerama Dome which was the predecessor to IMAX. All of their 14 screens are state of the art and all seating is assigned so customers can actually pick the best seat in the house. This is the farthest thing away from the typical generic multiplex that Americans pack into each weekend. And guess what? Their ticket prices were also the highest.

You would think that advertising for this company would be key, right?  They would need huge billboards and print ads that touted their comfortable seats, their impressive choice to show NO commercials before the films and their gourmet concession stands that offered fresh-made caramel corn.

They would need to shout about their company from the roof tops all these reasons they were simply the best place to see the newest blockbuster that just happens to be screening everywhere else in the county with a cheaper ticket price.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that it was company policy to not advertise at all. No radio spots, no fliers, no web ads, no glossy magazine pages. No TV commercials during prime time or anytime! Their one and only marketing strategy was word of mouth.

What Word of Mouth Marketing Can Do

Years have passed and Arclight has done very well in a very competitive city. Still considered the best place to experience a film in Los Angeles, Arclight now has 5 Continue reading “How To Get Word Of Mouth Exposure – Part 1: What’s The Buzz?” »

Marketing Tip of the Week: Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

In many ways, marketing is about WOW-ing your customer. You have to impress them enough to get them in the door, impress them once they’ve arrived and impress them again as they leave. Promotions work for the first and customer service for the second, but what about that last option? What can you do to ensure that your customer is impressed every time they leave your store?

Under-Promise

What do I mean? Well, probably the most famous example of this I can think of comes from the original Star Trek television series. Whenever the ship was having a problem and Captain Kirk had to call down to engineering, he’d always hear Mr. Scott explain to him all the reasons that he couldn’t have what he wanted in the time frame he wanted it. Invariably, Mr. Scott WOULD be able to perform the requested action and could do it in even less time than the captain required. Once this feat had been accomplished, Kirk would always say, “Mr. Scott, you’re a genius.”

That’s a little over the top for a successful business model, but the idea is sound. If you own a production business, regardless of what you’re producing, and a customer asks when you can have their product ready, give yourself a bit of lee time or under-promise. This isn’t just to make an impressive display of delivering before they expect, but it gives you the chance to deal with any unexpected problems that may arise. If there are no unexpected problems, your customer gets their product early and are thrilled with your swift turnaround time.

Over-Deliver

The baker’s dozen concept works off the same premise. Instead of twelve donuts, the customer would receive thirteen. Does that mean they paid for twelve? Well, they paid what the baker told them twelve would cost, but since the baker was fully aware he was going to provide thirteen, perhaps the price reflected as much. Similarly, when customer’s spend money in your store, you might offer a free gift. This wouldn’t be something you advertise, but rather something you offer to Continue reading “Marketing Tip of the Week: Under-Promise and Over-Deliver” »

Merchandising: More Than Just a Display

According to the American Marketing Association, merchandising includes the “planning involved in marketing the right merchandise or service at the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities, and at the right price.”

Creating the “Right” Atmosphere for Your Customers

Mannquins
Mannquins
Full Steam Marketing & Design, a marketing company, takes a look at the “Psyche of a Shopper.” They have come to the understanding that consumers are faced with too many options and not enough time to make decisions.

I’ve been there, I have an idea of what I want but, having several choices can be so overwhelming that I walk out the door without purchasing anything. In this case, the “right” for me (the customer) has not been accomplished. So where did the store go wrong? It all comes back to the right merchandise, at the right place, at the right time. If customers are bombarded with too many choices, they become overwhelmed. This negative feeling leads to customer shut-down which in turn leads to shopping abandonment instead of a purchase.

Merchandising Can Overcome Shopping Abandonment

Merchandising helps catch your consumer’s eye and is critical for your business to stand out. Merchandising helps customers remember you. More importantly, merchandising helps focus the customer thus creating a more enjoyable and relaxing shopping experience. When customers feel relaxed, they tend to spend more time in a store. The more time they spend in a store the more likely they will make a purchase.

Using the Five Senses to Create the “Right” Shopping Environment

Fashion Display
Fashion Display
Not only is sight important, the other four senses help your customer relish their shopping experience, too. A potent dead pot of flowers can be unbearable, but a sweet fragrance will lure you customers in and give the feel of freshness throughout the store.

Sounds can bring back memories for your clients and can soothe them into taking in the beauty of the visuals you have set up. If you have food in your store, try having a “Sample Day,” where you open up some of your items for customers to taste test. Don’t forget about the sense of touch. With fingers having the most nerve endings on our body that can send messages to the brain, it’s important to make available items your customers can hold, take off the shelf, pull from the flower cooler… you get the picture.

I believe a sixth sense could be added to this list, and that is the ability to create a personal relationship with your customer. What does the relationship have to do with merchandising, you ask? The customer’s experience. That’s why we involved all of the senses.

The way you make your customer feel when they enter your store is just as important as what they see, touch, hear, smell, and possibly taste. So, do you make an extra effort to go above and beyond for your customers? Do they know they can rely on you? When they walk in, do you begin to establish that rapport and acknowledge that they came in at all? At the end of the day, most customers will always go back to their relationship with you. Making that relationship is a top priority in your business and is ultimately what will keep your customers coming back. Remember, always think like the customer.

So let’s face it, your customer’s experience is a crucial, deciding factor when it comes to purchases and customer loyalty. Retailers should have the mindset of keeping the customer for life, to establish that personal relationship and loyalty. With such a need for merchandising, there are many website resources and companies who specialize in marketing that can help create your perfect atmosphere. Taking those extra steps to ensure their experience is an opportunity you can’t afford to lose!

Planning Your Christmas In July

It’s never too early to be planning for the biggest shopping season of the year! With ONLY 22 weeks until Black Friday kicks off the 2013 holiday shopping season and plenty of customers shopping before that, do you have a good retail holiday strategy?

With slow but steady improvements to the economy, holiday retail sales are predicted to be up this year. With a little savvy planning for your business, you can take the stress out of the holiday rush. Here are some vendors with fantastic and festive items you can add to your list.

Bottomley Evergreens and Farms – is a family business that has grown into one of the largest shippers and suppliers of Christmas trees and Christmas greens in America. There is nothing that compares to fresh cut greenery and by offering these beautiful boughs in your store means you have great quick sale items AND an aromatic atmosphere as well! And while these items will be delivered fresh once winter gets here, you can place your orders in advance to save time and hassle.

 

Burton and Burton – the TOTAL gift experience is provided by this company, offering amazing selection with retailer reviews that make them a clear choice for seasonal gifts. Order early so you can get a jump on the seasonal shipping rush. You’ll have fun Christmas decor and gifts on the shelves as soon as customers start thinking in green and red!

Blossom Bucket, Inc. – With unique selections for decorations and presents alike, don’t miss any of the holiday categories here! With so many funny and whimsical novelties, you won’t have any bah humbug in your aisles!

 

 Need some business tips for planning ahead for the holidays?
This FGMarket guide is for you!

Market with Customer Service


Bottle Tree from Junkyard Crafts
Market with Customer Service

Customer service is a form of marketing? Why yes, yes it is. It’s no less a marketing tool than the end caps on your aisles and the displays around your register. Customer service is marketing that happens once the customer has already made contact; that makes it invaluable to not only ensure you get that customer’s business on the front end but keep it on the back-end. And we all know it’s just as important, if not more so, to keep the customers you have as it is to attract new ones.

  1. Training – Customer service is not something that most of your employees are going to be proficient with when they walk in the door unless they have previous experience and sometimes not even then.
  2. Clear Expectations - Make it clear to your employees what you want from them in regards to customer service.
  3. Supervision - All the training and expectations in the world mean nothing if you’re not randomly listening to customer interactions. It’s important to hear how your employees treat customers, not because you distrust them but because it’s your job to ensure that your customers are receiving the absolute best care you can provide.

Customer service is an important tool for any business, and can be the difference between success or failure. Read More About Customer Service

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