Capitalize on your touch points!

Recently I bought a grinder from a store. Made the payment, got the grinder and a receipt. The receipt spoke of the store details, the representative who served me, date, amount etc and a long return policy statement. Just for one item I got this receipt which was like a page long with most of its part talking about the return policy. What does this indicate? No doubt these details are important, but how far are they good to support out mission/market our business or promote our products/services?

There was not a single line used in the receipt that did the job of promoting the store’s products/services or rather even appreciating the customer’s purchase. Normally I see them on a white paper, black ink. We preserve the receipts if they are for costly commodities/services otherwise we barely look at them once we leave the store/restaurant or any other place. I have a few smart examples to share, from which we can take some inspiration.

The reason for writing this post is to rediscover the power of touch points (the points of buyer-seller interaction) by capitalizing on our interactions/marketing material/receipts as a bounce back marketing tool. Checkout counter is one such touch point. Let us study some examples here.

Extreme Pita: I often visit this place and with the meal, I get a receipt showing the complete nutrition chart, giving the details of the food I am going to eat- the calorie intake, protein, carbohydrates and a measurement of how much calories we need a day/how much we are having there on a meal. We do see these nutrition facts in Ads (few minute Ads that cost a lot of money), but this receipt works as a smart simple form of advertisement which the customer can read at his own time.

Isn’t this a creative medium to pass on the same message at a very little cost? The receipt also thanked the customer, appreciated the purchase and offered a discount (bounce back offer) for the next purchase.

Another creative use of Receipt is done by Ralphs. On the back of receipt, we can find many attractive discount coupons. I personally preserve Ralphs receipt for car wash and hair cut discount coupons.

Great clips: Get a haircut, and preserve your receipt for a discount on your next cut.

Which other businesses are you familiar with, that are capitalizing on their touch points?

Now that we have recognized its importance, let us start our home work. Let us study the touch points where customers get in touch with us, and generate ideas on how we can capitalize that interaction. Let us examine our marketing material/receipts that we have been presenting to our customers/clients, and play with our imagination and creativity to make it work for us.

Ask questions like: How about putting a bounce back offer to our marketing material/receipts? We can come up with unique bounce back offers suitable to our business and mission. How about having colorful receipts? Loaded with coupons? Receipt made of a paper which is sticky and the customer can preserve it by simply putting it on the refrigerator, like the one we get on pizza box.

We may dedicate budgets for advertisement, branding and promotions, but we should not forget that the key to successful business is at the touch points-where we interact with our customers.

Take away: Success doesn’t need big budgets, it simply asks for our Imagination and Creativity which every one of us is blessed with.

How to organize business online and offline!

We daily have new priorities and challenges in either personal or professional life and we may face them as they come or be proactive and plan in advance. However we tend to get confused or stressed when we are unable to manage our tasks as per our expectations. Or sometimes our efforts don’t bring the results we expect. To stay organized and never miss our priorities, here are few simple tips to manage our business online and offline.

1. Have a Coach/Guru/Mentor
We can start with introspection of a particular area, we want to master at and hunt for a good coach/expert that can help us. This would work best when our coach can also benefit something from us while he is sharing his expertise with us. Reiterating, this coaching time should not be a part of our personal dedicated time. For me books and amazing online website like HubSpot and Mashable are great guides. However I am still looking for a personal coach for SEO who can guide me, a non programmer, in a simple (non programming) language.

2. Have time bound goals.
The key to success is proper planning, execution and follow up. For this, our goals have to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific. So if we know what we want to achieve this year, (tangible numbers) we can divide the figure to quarterly goals and then further divide it into weekly targets. By doing this we would be able to measure our efforts, make changes to our plans accordingly and work out for the deviation (if any).Goals can be in personal, professional, social or spiritual area, whatever you are looking for.

3. Plan for the day.
We all know how important a to-do list is. We may just try to remember everything that we have to accomplish for the day, or jot it down on yellow notes, or in a diary or paper pad. People also like Outlook for this activity. This activity becomes very satisfying, once we go on completing the tasks one by one and put a check mark as they get done.  If we make this a habit, it ensures that we never miss out important tasks of the day and are always able to meet deadlines. I like to start with actions that are fun or easy to do, and since they would get accomplished fast, I get a boost that only few are left and I can make it.

4. Introspection time.
Dedicate yourself few hours of the day, may be at early morning or afternoon (whatever time suits you) one hour or two or three. But not more, since we have other priorities. During this time we should fully concentrate on our business/areas of improvement/business reengineering or whatever project we are working on and should avoid interruptions (those which are controllable) like answering phone calls, listening to voice messages, reading emails etc. In nutshell, this is the time just dedicated for yourself, where you can work on your most important priority.

5. Set a Time check.
I like this key the best. Once we have dedicated a time for us, we should put a limit for our self, that within this time I have to complete this task. “All the exams have a time limit”. This would create a bit of pressure to make the best use of every minute and make us accountable. We may also use a timer, to discipline our self and complete our task within that time by staying away from non productive thoughts and dreams. This is like, we first set a dedicated time for self, and in that time, we have deadlines for actions to be done. We may also give us a break of say 5 minutes, after each task is done.

6. Treasure your ideas.
Ideas come to us all the time, but we miss them either by not paying attention or fail to remember them. To avoid missing our ideas, we may carry a small diary, where we can record our ideas. Sometimes it happens that I am thinking on a problem, and I would get a solution in my sleep. Therefore we should always carry something where we can capture our ideas, (a paper napkin would also work). We may also use Outlook, but I like using a dairy which gives a feeling of touch and think while you write.

7. Offer free assistance.
In whatever field we are working, we would have clients/audience or customers. And they have concerns or problems where we can serve them. We need to identify their concerns, and dedicate a time for them, say a particular day of the week or time of the day, when we would listen and solve their concerns for free. This can be in the form of free consultation; free service, free product repair, free oil change (Although I don’t think we can get this for free).We can have more ideas here based on what would work for our business and what would be cost and time effective. HubSpot does this very well by sharing free information and downloadable digests on various marketing topics. I learn a lot from these articles.

This exercise would help us know our customers better and also see them go happy with a solution.This could also be revenue generating, because since it is free we may see more people come to you than usual and we can capitalize on it. Further serving someone for free by dedicating them some time, would also bring a sense of happiness.

Keys to keep customers coming back again and again!

There would be no entrepreneur who wants a customer for one time. They want the customers to give long term value and have a long term bonding. But we all are doing , what we do only because it gives us a positive answer to “What’s In It for me”. Mutual benefit is the key to have long term relations with our customer/client.

So the question is how many of us follow these three simple steps when connecting with the customer or to be specific at the point of sales.
1. Thank the customer/client for purchasing the product/service from you, by having a thank you note inside the product package or service literature.
2. Appreciate their decision of buying from you.
3. Give them bounce back offers.

These bounce back offers could be in the form of discount coupons, free product samples, free service for certain time, exclusive benefits like giving unadvertised free gifts etc. These freebies attract customers to come to you again and again.

Most of the businesses, give bounce back offers like discounts coupons the customer can use next time, free shipping with the next order or 5 dollars cash back on your next order etc. But this has become so common now days that it doesn’t inspire customers enough to remember us when they go out for purchase.

With creativity and imagination,we can serve our customers in a way which would make them realize that we are meeting their need rather then their want or that we are delighting them.

To amaze customers, we can brainstorm creative bounce back ideas that would differentiate us. We may delight them by giving unexpected/Unadvertised benefits. We may do this by offering free purchase of equal or lesser value from the same brand, wishing them on their birthday, sending them freebies and thanking them for being a patron and loyal. This is an area where we can be more creative with our own ideas of what would delight our customers. The best person to generate these bounce back offers could be a sales person, because he would be meeting so many customers day in and out and can find out what would delight them.

This may be little pricey but would keep customers tied up with the organization and also bring lot of out referrals from these happy customers. If done correct, this would also strengthen the brand positioning and remembrance.

We may also deploy different bounce back offers for different category of customers.
We may categorize our customer base as follows:
Strangers – Less Profitable and Less Loyal
Butterflies – Profitable but not loyal
True Friends – Profitable and loyal
Barnacle – Not profitable but loyal.
After trying out with few types of bounce back offers, we need to find out which one works with our target audience and repeating that strategy again and again.
This reminds me of a quote: Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends-Walt Disney
If you know of any organization that deploys such strategies, let us discuss those examples here.

Is Time Management a Myth?

Time Management. This has become a chapter to study in schools, colleges and a skill that is taught at various coaching centers. Not only this,but there are countless books published on Time management,and teaches how to be a master at it.
So what is this all about time management? You would think what a silly question am I asking?  It simply means managing time and completing tasks on time.

But isn’t this a myth? Can we control nature? No. Then how can we control TIME that flows naturally, is intangible, neutral, doesn’t wait for anybody and has no opinions. The question that arises is, how we can manage something that we can’t control. It would have been amazing if we could control it,then we would have controlled and dragged the moments of fun and happiness and lived them forever and would fast forward the bad times.

If we give a moment of thought, we would realize that actually we are managing our actions so that we accomplish our tasks within the determined time frame. We just can’t add or reduce minutes from the time clock we can just reengineer our efforts in such a way that the task gets done within the timings of the clock.

Again reiterating,Time is beyond human being’s control. So when we are re-engineering our actions to complete tasks within the time limit, what we are doing is Actions Management rather than Time Management.

Wish you good Actions Management.If you like this post,you would also like my other post, Secrets of Time Management.
What are your views on this,are we managing time or our actions?

Social Media vs.Email Marketing.Which one is better?

Is social media marketing a more effective approach to online marketing than traditional direct email marketing? Are they mutually exclusive or exhaustive tactics?

The birth of Email marketing goes back to 1990’s when the internet was starting to become more popular. Businesses quickly figured out this was a great way to reach customers. It was also less expensive than mailing out advertisements to homes. By 1995 the number of email advertisements sent out that year was more than the number sent out by regular mail. Businesses spend a great deal of money creating email marketing campaigns that won’t be confused with spam.This was going well.

But with new discoveries it was found that getting the email to the consumer is only half of the battle. The information that is send out has to grab their attention and entice them to take the link to our website and make a purchase. And other dark side was that audience were not interested in reading long stories.They always look out of “WIIFM”Whats In It For Me”.

History says that many email marketing campaigns had to be altered as they were being wiped out by the filters. Businesses were losing money on the marketing campaigns and not getting expected results, because it was very much in the hands of subscribers to unsubscribe them. Further emails were left only as one way communication.

But then comes the relief after all this hard work.The new invention of “Social Media”.

Marketers are now more relieved with their online marketing job,with this invention.No doubt there are always two side to a coin.Everyone is super-excited about the immense traction and exposure potential that social media marketing can offer with increase in Click Through Rates, email retains a great deal of untapped potential.

Recently, Ben & Jerry’s was in news for dropping emails in favor of social media marketing in U.K.

But still there is hope from emails.It cant die so soon. Every morning most of us would check emails before going to our social networking activities.See what a recent research by ExactTarget has to say about Email marketing’s life-cycle:http://email.exacttarget.com/sff/research_part1.html

Now after reading and introspecting, share your insights on which one would be a winner and which one would be a runner up ,not because one is better than other, but because the audience demands one over other.

Justify your presence on Social media properties!

Can we justify ourselves if someone asks us:Why are you present on social media platform/(s)?What are you goals from the use of social media and what is your strategy to reach your audience? Continue reading

Cops using Social Media!

Facebook has a omnipresent personality,a platform where people of all age groups are active in any of the following forms:Creators,Critics,Collectors,Joiners,Spectators and inactive’s.It has a rampant use in most of the sectors like marketing, human resources, non profit organizations, event promotions, and a lot more. Few sectors,that are not much active with FB would be banking and security.But as such these sectors need more security confidentiality.

However now even Indian police has started making good use of FB  and twitter to catch law breakers and reckless drivers.They are even using it to spy on college kids party plans. Continue reading