The clock neared midnight, the ball started its descent, and as quickly as I could count down from ten, another year (and another glass of bubbly) had, just like that… fizzled out. But before I could lose myself to memories of “the year that was,” I became quickly entranced with goals for the year ahead: Eat healthy; take a class; save money; travel; read more; get back in touch with long-lost friends; lose those final five (ok, ten) extra pounds. Oh, the familiarity of it all… Such typical resolutions made each year in such predictable fashion. But I was, and am, determined to make this year different. I can do it. I will do it. I am committed. A clean slate lies ahead, and it all starts NOW.
January 1, 2009, 9:01AM—Do you know where your business is?
Perhaps one of the last things on your mind as you welcomed in this New Year was the state of your business marketing: How many customers will be added this year? Will revenue increase? And by how much? What new messaging/positioning will resonate competitively with target audiences? How will a greater share of wallet be obtained? Will existing customers’ business grow? What new products/services will be offered? How much market share can be gained?
If you weren’t thinking about your business marketing amidst the floor-strewn confetti, remaining few cocktail weenies, and leftover lentils, don’t fret. This stuff takes time, careful thought, and extensive planning, right? And, you’re a busy professional. Time is limited. You’re an expert at what you do, which is, perhaps, not marketing. And come January 2, it will be business as usual—full steam ahead!
Marketing—The Time is NOW
Similar to hollow New Year’s resolutions, most business professionals ultimately know what needs to be done to support increased sales and business growth via marketing. However, very few have the time, resources, and expertise to strategically plan and successfully execute tactics that make a difference.
So what can be done differently this time around? What can be done quickly, easily, TODAY, with focus and results that will make an obvious, significant impact on business?
Following are five action items that you can implement immediately that will impact your business. I GUARANTEE IT.
1. Survey 5 customers
It sounds simple and takes very little time, but when was the last time you asked your customers about their needs and your business? Identify five customers and pick a few questions to get this information. Think of questions that will show concern for your customers as well as help your business, such as: “What can we do to better serve you?”; “What products/services do you plan on buying (more/less) of?”; What can we improve upon?”; “How likely is it (on a scale of 1 – 10) that you would recommend us to a colleague/friend?”. The answers you receive may surprise you and help your business dramatically.
2. Thank 5 customers
About one month ago I received a personal phone call from a Wachovia representative. In her voicemail message, she said she was calling me to simply “thank me” for my business. She assured me that if I had any immediate needs to contact her and they’d be happy to take care of it. It was a simple call but very effective for several reasons:
- It was a phone call. There was a live person on the other end and she was thanking me for my business personally. This is more valuable than a standard thank-you card, bulk email or other non-personal communication
- It was not promotional. Just a simple thank you. “We appreciate your business. If we can serve you better…” They could have easily put in a promotion for a new interest rate or investment product they have available as a presumed benefit, but I appreciated the fact that they did not
- It was friendly and made me feel important and appreciated.
Thanking customers in person with sincerity can have staggering results for your business, producing new and/or increased orders and customer retention, to name a few. Whatever the results, the power of thank you cannot hurt, takes little time, and is always welcomed.
3. Write down 5 realistic and achievable business goals
I know you have your business goals clearly etched in your mind. It is probably all you think about, at least during the workday. However, committing them to paper and keeping them visible will help to keep your business goals top-of-mind and increase chances for achievement. Do you want to grow the number of units sold, increase revenue, or both? Do you plan to provide more service offerings to customers and sell them to existing and new customers? Will you improve market share this year and take a competitive lead?
Whatever your business goals are, write down five of them and in order of priority. Keep those goals on/near your desk for frequent reference. And feel free to check off and/or edit as you move through yearly benchmarks.
4. Identify and write down your VIP customer list
Segmenting your customer list is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Pareto was right: 20% of customers actually do, on average, generate 80% of your business. You probably already have your VIP list committed to memory and can recite their names as quickly as “Paul, John, George and Ringo.” However, take a moment to write down your top 25 – 50 customers in order of priority. Go one step further and, next to each, identify why they are a part of your “VIP Customer List”. Is it because they order more in terms of frequency, dollar volume, and/or profitable products/services? Or are they simply great influencers and referrals of additional business? For whatever the reason they make your list, be sure to keep that list close by. Contact that list regularly and via different communication tactics (email, phone, in-person meetings) and make sure they are always overly-satisfied. At least 80% of your business will thank you for it…
5. Refer 3 businesses to customers, colleagues or friends
This one is more of an indirect action item but, if you are like me and believe in the notion of “what comes around goes around,” you’ll take particular note. Make the effort to refer at least three complimentary businesses to customers, colleagues, and friends. Do it willingly without expecting anything in return. You may not see immediate results from this action item, but it can pay significant dividends down the road. Trust me. As Dan S. Kennedy states in The Ultimate Marketing Plan: “The referred customer has less skepticism, and is less price-resistant, more receptive and more easily sold and satisfied.” When that comes back at you, the sales effort (and costs) will be minimal.
Word-of-Mouth Marketing is by far one of the most powerful forms of marketing. When executed in a Business-to-Business (B2B) environment, it can lead to unique and profitable partnerships, as well. Especially during times of economic challenge, forming mini-business-referral groups based on trust and centered around good customers and good business can very well be the one thing that makes your business grow. To speed this along, consider joining a business networking organization such as The Chamber of Commerce or The GoTo Network (www.thegotonetwork.com).
If you cannot do all five action items immediately, make it your goal to do at least one a week for the next five weeks. Be steadfast and, for those that arereally starved for time and need every excuse, approach each action item as an investment in the success of your business. It deserves the best in marketing attention.
So what are you waiting for? The New Year and your business can’t wait!
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.