Archive for marketing system

7 Marketing Metrics Every Small Business Should Track

metrics

When it comes to marketing your small business, how do you know how well you are doing?

One of the biggest challenges small business owners face when it comes to marketing is determining what’s working, what’s not, and what to do about it. Specifically, they want to know where to spend their limited time and resources in order to grow their bottom line.

In order to answer those questions, two things need to happen. First, you must treat marketing as a system and second, you must build the habit of collecting and evaluating metrics that tell you how that system is performing.

If you are just beginning to use metrics to help improve your marketing, don’t get bogged down in the plethora of marketing metrics you could track. Try to select a few that will help you answer the key questions you have about how your marketing system is performing and how you can tell if those results of those efforts are improving.

To help you get started, here are 7 metrics you can track that will help you determine how well you’re doing in the different phases of the customer life cycle.

1. Visitors – helps you determine how you are doing at attracting traffic to your business. I am referring to traffic in the broadest sense here; depending on your business, traffic may include visits to your office or store, people calling you on the phone, visitors to your tradeshow booth, or people visiting your website.

2. Opt-ins – help you measure how well you are capturing leads. Lead capture involves collecting contact information from your visitors, along with permission to follow up. While lead capture is often associated with online marketing, it applies to offline marketing as well. For example, a local grocery store may ask customers during checkout if they would like to receive updates when fresh produce arrives.

3. Hot Prospects – tracking the number of prospects who have shown signs that they are ready to engage in a sales conversation is a great way to determine how well you are nurturing leads. Hot prospects may be those who have requested a free consultation, asked for a proposal, or walked into your physical store. What behaviors do your prospects exhibit right before they buy?

4. Sales – tracking the number of hot prospects that convert into sales can let you know if you need to work on your sales process – either collectively or with individual sales staff.

5. Customer Satisfaction – scoring can help you determine how well your customers believe you are delivering on your promises and the expectations that you set during the marketing and sales process.

There are many ways to measure customer satisfaction. One popular method is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Like most things in marketing, consistent execution and following up are your keys to success no matter how you measure customer satisfaction. Make sure you follow up with both unsatisfied customers (to see if you can rectify the situation) as well as satisfied customers (to collect referrals and/or testimonials).

6. Lifetime Customer Value (LCV)– is a way to assign a dollar value to the long-term relationship you have with your customers. LCV can help you determine how well you’re repeat sales, cross selling and up-selling efforts are performing.

7. Referrals Received – is the primary metric we use to measure our referral marketing results. For B2B companies (like my own) I also like to measure referrals given as I’ve found it to be a leading indicator of referrals received.

Once you are tracking these metrics, you will be in a better position to make smart decisions about where to focus your marketing efforts and budget in order to increase sales. For example, you may find that you have plenty of traffic but no opt-ins. Or you may have plenty of people expressing interest (opt-ins) but none of them are converting into leads – leading you to work on lead nurturing.

Over time you will have new questions and will develop new metrics to answer those questions. Don’t forget to periodically review your metrics and drop any that are no longer providing value.

Do you have a favorite marketing metric? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Two Types of Marketing Automation

lucy-automation

Marketing automation tools can be a great way for small business owners to get more done in less time. These tools are not a silver bullet. If you are considering implementing a marketing automation solution, one of the first questions to ask yourself is what will you be automating?

For many small businesses, marketing automation isn’t just about a new set of tools; it often requires a new approach to marketing and sales. Automating an ineffective process won’t lead to success.

In my experience, those businesses that use automation to bombard people with information are typically frustrated with their automation efforts while those who use automation tools to improve their ability to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time enjoy much greater success.

Automating the Process of Bombarding Prospects

This is the easier (but less effective) way of implementing a marketing automation system. This method is the modern day equivalent of dropping by to deliver brochures and other materials without ever asking for feedback or engaging in a meaningful conversation about their business.

Systems set up this way pretend to have a conversation, but it’s the type of conversation where the seller does all the talking. Too be fair, many consultants and vendors exacerbate this problem by describing scenarios where a visitor fills out a form on your website and they are automatically sent 7 messages over the next 12 days culminating with an invitation to have a sales conversation.

Automation of this type makes you feel like you are being more efficient, but is often not very effective.

Automating the Delivery of Personal Attention

A different approach is to use marketing automation tools to help you emulate an in person conversation by discovering what the other person is interested in then delivering information that is relevant to their situation.

In order to do that, you must not only think about automating what you say, you need to think about how to use the tools to listen.

This type of personalization is very different from just inserting the person’s name somewhere in the message.

One way to start this type of conversation is to ask questions. I’m guessing you already do this when you meet a prospect in person. You may ask about:

  • the size of their business
  • their industry
  • how they help their customers
  • how they make their money (business model)
  • goals they want to accomplish
  • challenges they need to address

You can ask these same questions in a number of different ways online and vial email by:

  • Presenting surveys or questions
  • Presenting information related to different business problems and noting which ones they select
  • Observing topics they interact with on your website or newsletter
  • Using techniques like progressive profiling (asking for additional pieces of information as you deliver more materials)

Those are only a few examples. The important point is to use the information shared with you to provide relevant information back to your prospects and customers. We’ve all been in conversations where the other person asks for information about us and then continues to deliver a canned presentation. It’s frustrating and there is no need to automate that experience (unless you goal is to aggravate more people faster <g>).

Increase your chances of success with marketing automation by focusing on delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time.

7 Marketing Campaigns for Your Small Businesses

automation

One way to improve our small business marketing systems is to create standardized procedures and communications for activities we are already doing. Creating procedures can help improve consistency, speeds up processing time, and makes it easier to delegate.

The campaigns below focus on common small business marketing activities that you may be doing to one extent or another. Thinking of each activity in context of a campaign helps identify the processes that we can standardize (and possibly automate) along with templates we may be able to create for our routine messages.

While these campaigns can be automated, I didn’t want you to think you have to run out and buy expensive software before you can start your marketing campaigns. Automated or not, you still need to map out the process, decision points, and content that you will need – so focus on doing that first. You can decide later whether you can use the tools you have or if you need to purchase new ones.

1. Free Report / Free Download / Free Newsletter Campaigns – Most business offer some sort of free download or newsletter subscription on their website. However, most “campaigns” consist only of an email confirmation and then delivery of the free item. By adding more messages to your free download campaign you can learn more about your prospects and how you may be able to help them.

Consider:

    • including offers to other resources you have available
    • asking a few survey questions to determine interests and needs
    • creating follow up campaigns for each question in your survey

2. Free Consultation / Free Quote Campaigns – it is also common for business to offer a free consultation or quote to prospective customers. If you have such an offering, take a look at your processes and identify steps and communications you can standardize.

Consider:

    • Using appointment reminders or phone calls to reduce no shows
    • Providing “tips for getting the most from our meeting”, or a list of things you want them to bring/provide for you
    • What communications and tasks need to take place if the customer buys
    • What communications and tasks need to take place if the customer “wants to think about it”.
    • Having a process in place for dealing with no shows.

3. New Customer Campaign – Do you have a standard, systematic approach for onboarding new customers? Standardizing your new customer welcoming process can help get the relationship started on the right foot, reducing problems down the road by properly setting expectations, and increasing your chances for receiving referrals.

Consider:

    • Creating a document outlining “what to expect” or “what to bring to your first meeting”
    • Providing a list of names and ways to contact your employees along with a description of how they can help
    • Outlining your billing procedures and expectations along with the customer’s payment options
    • Sending an unexpected gift early in the relationship
    • Including a customer happiness survey after the first 30, 60, or 90 days

4. Customer Happiness Feedback – Having a system in place for regularly soliciting feedback from your customers not only improves customer retention but can also help you get more business from referrals. One strategy you can employ is to determine what is a “passing score” on your survey and then when surveys are received all failing scores receive an immediate phone call follow up while passing scores may be asked to provide a testimonial or referral.

Consider:

    • Sending a testimonial template and/or examples of other testimonials to help them get started
    • Providing an online referral form to happy customers, asking if they know anyone else who would benefit from your product or service
    • Let them know you want to refer them as well and ask them how you can help

5. Re-engagement Campaigns – if you have a list, you undoubtedly have cold contacts on that list. Re-engagement campaigns can help you determine if you should continue to contact them (and if so, about what topics), replace them with a new contact at the same company, or remove them from your list. The goal is to get the conversation started again.

Consider:

    • Asking if they are still the appropriate person to contact about X
    • Sending a survey with questions related to the pains you address, so you can follow up with a relevant campaign
    • Asking previous prospects if they were able to find a solution and if so, ask how it is working for them

6. Webinar, Seminar, or Event Campaigns – If you use webinars, seminars, or other events in your marketing mix then you have plenty of opportunity to create standardized processes and communications. Event registration and reminders are obvious candidates, but you don’t forget the follow up.

Consider:

    • Including instructions for attending the event such as directions, accommodations, information about the speaker(s), etc.
    • Creating a “how to get the most from this event” document
    • Following up with a special offer for attendees
    • Creating a communication series for people who registered but did not attend
    • Using your event feedback form to gather information to help you determine which of your other campaigns your attendees would be interested in receiving

7. Referral Partner Campaigns – We all like business from referrals and for many businesses, having a robust referral partner network may be all the marketing they need. Creating such a network takes time and effort which means we have a lot to gain by standardizing procedures and communications in this area.

Consider:

    • Creating a standard process, as well as a set of messages, for identifying and approaching potential referral partners
    • Standardizing your process for following up with your referral partners. Make sure to have a process for first gaining Top of Mind status as well as a second process for maintaining Top of Mind status.
    • Creating a series of snack sized messages that give examples of customers you serve and the problems you have helped them solve
    • Documenting your process for making and following up on introductions to your referral partners

I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you may be able to move from performing marketing activities to creating systems that allow you to grow your business.

Small Business Marketing and Project Management

marketing project planInstalling and maintaining a small business marketing system is comprised a series of projects. As marketers, we manage two main types of projects – 1) get things “up and running” projects and 2) “ongoing work” projects.

Take blogging for example. You may have one project to get WordPress installed, designed, and configured. Once your blog is up and running you have a series of ongoing, recurring projects to continue create, review, publish and promote content on your blog.

Up and running projects typically get more attention and planning. This may be because of the initial expenses required, i.e. purchasing software or hiring a consultant, or just the realization that we are doing something new. However, it is the execution of the ongoing work project(s) that usually determine the success of the endeavor.

Companies that are focus on “up and running” projects without also focusing on the ongoing work projects are often frustrated that they “spend a lot of money on marketing but nothing seems to work”.

Here are five questions to ask yourself and your team when creating and reviewing both types of marketing project plans.

  1. What does DONE look like? – Having projects that drag on forever can be just as bad as projects that declared done but don’t meet the (intended) requirements. Make sure all of the stakeholders share a common vision of what done looks like.
  2. How are you going to get to DONE? – what are the deliverables of the project. Who is responsible for each deliverable? Map out the order of the work needed to produce these deliverables.
  3. What resources do we need? – time, money, expertise, technology – list resources needed to complete the project. Yes, we have an abundance of free / cheap tools available for marketing, but don’t forget about the time, skills, and knowledge it takes to implement those tools effectively.
  4. What could derail your plans? – we all know stuff happens, have you taken some time to think about what you will do when it does? How will you handle being late, over budget, or when key personnel are unavailable? You don’t have to obsess over these questions, but you don’t want to be caught off guard, particularly on your more important projects, by assuming they will never happen.
  5. How will you measure progress? – personally, I prefer to stay away from percent complete reporting and consider tasks to be either complete or not complete. This is a tip I picked up from my software development days; it helped us get away from projects or tasks that were perpetually “90% complete” and identify which tasks needed special attention or redefining.

What questions help you make sure your marketing projects are on track and successful?

How to Conduct A Marketing Audit

If asking a roomful of people for a definition of marketing results in a dozen different answers, asking the same group how to conduct a marketing audit is bound to be 2 or 3 times as frustrating. Here are just a few of the “marketing audit” variations I’ve heard recently:

Conducting a Marketing Audit

External Marketing Audit

Usually similar to a SWOT analysis, examining and evaluating the market, competitors, and the economic environment.

Internal Marketing Audit

Also similar to a SWOT analysis, focusing on your company’s current strengths and weaknesses.

Content (or Marketing Content) Audit

With popularity of inbound marketing and content marketing, more businesses talk about performing a content audit. A content audit typically consists of:

  1. Gathering up all of the disparate marketing materials that have been created over the years.
  2. Evaluating which content is working and which is not. Content is considered “working” when it is attracting visitors, engaging the target audience, leading to sales, etc.
  3. Creating a plan for creating new content that “works”

Marketing Tactic Audit

This is a name that I made up for marketing audits that focus on a specific strategy. For example, you may hear people talk about “social media marketing audits” or “website audits”. While these exercises may be helpful, I believe they should be part of a broader evaluation of your marketing system.

Customer Interview or Satisfaction Surveys

I heard people refer to these as “audits” but personally, I don’t agree. In my mind they are feedback tools.

Judging Against a Standard

Some of you know that I early in my professional career I was a CPA (certified public accountant). Part of my job then was conducting audits – both financial and compliance audits. While a “marketing audit” is nothing like the work I did then, there are lessons that I learned then that I use in my marketing career today.

When I was being taught how to conduct an audit as an accountant, I was give a set of steps (an audit program) and a set of rules and regulations to help me evaluate the current reality against a set of standards.

Unfortunately, most marketing audits focus on collecting and assessing the current reality, but they don’t have a set of standards (or a system) to compare against – they don’t “start with end in mind”.

Begin With The End In Mind

Kansas City Marketing Consultant

If your audit doesn’t provide you with a list of actionable items that will help you move closer to your business and personal goals, then it’s just a bunch of busy work.

I believe that marketing is a system and if you are going to spend the effort to conduct a marketing audit you should start with a vision of what that system looks like. Your audit should help provide you with an unvarnished look at what your marketing system looks like today and what you need to do ( a prioritized action list) to make that vision a reality.

Duct Tape Marketing outlines 7 Steps for Marketing Success. These steps outline what we believe a marketing system should look like, so they become the baseline that we evaluate against when performing an audit. The goal of the audit isn’t determine if you are doing a good job or a bad job; the goal is to help you take the next steps to build a marketing system that attracts your ideal customers so you can meet your financial goals.

I’m obviously biased towards Duct Tape Marketing, but even if you don’t use our system, I hope you will find a marketing system that works for you.

If you would like to see how this process works using the Duct Tape Marketing System, follow this link to complete our Signature Brand Audit form.

What Is Duct Tape Marketing?

“Hey Bill, what’s this Duct Tape Marketing thing you are always talking about?”

Great question (as my Sandler friends would say)! Here is a short video from John Jantsch, the guy who started Duct Tape Marketing that provides a nice overview of the philosophy behind Duct Tape Marketing as well as all of the things that make up Duct Tape Marketing today.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about Duct Tape Marketing. You can also find a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant near you here.

Marketing Got You Frustrated? It’s Time For A System.

Marketing your small business or service firm can be frustrating – particularly if you don’t have a marketing system in place. This brief video outlines how you can get rid of that frustration and systematically attract your ideal customers.

(Click here if you don’t see the video in your reader)

6 Ways to Strengthen Professional Relationships with CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are not just for big companies with large sales forces or customer service departments. A CRM system can be a great tool for helping retain your existing customers as well as acquiring new ones. Here are 6 ways professional service firms can use a CRM system to improve strengthen their professional relationships:

  1. Track Your Ideal Customer Profile – there is often a gap between belief and reality when it comes to the profile characteristics of our ideal customers. Using a CRM system to capture demographic, psychographic, and behavioral (what they refer, do they refer, etc.) can help gain a better understanding of our ideal customers and prospects. Reviewing this data can alert us to changes in our business that need to be addressed.
  2. Provide a personal touch – Sometimes the little things can make all the difference. Use your CRM system to “remember” things like food and beverage preferences, important dates, preferred method of communication (phone, email, etc.), favorite activities and causes, etc.
  3. Automate a process – Marketing is all about setting expectations and it is important to make sure those expectations are met when a prospect or customer interacts with your business. One way to make expectations are met is to have processes that are consistently followed by everyone in your company. Most CRM systems allow you create action item sequences that can be assigned to the relevant person at the appropriate time. Take advantage of this feature to create a consistent, high quality experience for everyone who interacts with your business.
  4. Be a better referral source – Having a searchable database that allows to quickly identify members of your network by expertise and other traits will help you be a more valuable resource to your customers and your referral network.
  5. Stay in touch with referral partners – Speaking of referrals, one of the keys to nurturing a strong referral partner network is to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. Combine the items listed above to stay in touch and build a vibrant referral network.
  6. Make your email campaigns more relevant – Email marketing is alive and well.  These days, however, sending out a monthly, generic blast may not be very effective. Use the information you capture in your CRM system to create segments that allow you to send more targeted and relevant messages.

Success = Behavior + Attitude + Technique

John Jantsch has a nice post today about changing your behaviors (or creating new habits) to become successful at marketing.

His post reminded me of a concept that I learned from my friends at Sandler Sales Training called the Success Triangle. I believe is so important to this idea of developing habits for success that I have started including it in all of my presentations.

Success TriangleThe Success Triangle tells us that to achieve success we have to focus on all three areas of the triangle – Behaviors, Attitudes, and Techniques.

We often talk about marketing or lead generation techniques. Techniques are important, but techniques alone are rarely the key to success – whether we are talking about marketing or anything else.

The most important part of this triangle is probably behaviors. This is where having a coach and tools to track your progress are very helpful. If you don’t do the day to day activities, it doesn’t matter how many techniques I give you or how wonderful the Duct Tape Marketing System is, you won’t get results if you don’t do the behaviors.

Attitude is important because is tends to drive the other two components. If you have the attitude that “marketing doesn’t work”, you won’t try the techniques and you won’t do the behaviors. Rather than focusing on what won’t work, focus on what you are willing to try, do, or say.

If you are not happy with the results of any part of your marketing system, review the success triangle to help you figure out which area(s) you need to address, Behaviours, Techniques, or Attitude, in order to improve your results.

By the way, I am a big fan of the Sandler Sales System and highly recommend them.

9 Marketing Mistakes CPAs, Accountants, and Attorneys Make

Here are some of the most common mistakes I see when it comes to marketing a professional service practice.

  1. Skipping strategy and charging straight ahead to tactics – One of the fastest ways to lose money and become frustrated with marketing is to fall into the “marketing idea of the week” syndrome. Resist the temptation to “just do something” and spend time developing a strategy.

  2. Not Finding And Communicating Their Remarkable Difference – To our prospects, one accountant looks like another, one attorney looks like another, etc. The most powerful marketing strategy you can employ is to find and communicate how you are different from everyone else who claims to do what you do.

  3. Confusing Expectations With Differentiators – Quality work, good customer service, fair pricing – these don’t set you apart from the crowd. They are table stakes – expectations for being in the game.

  4. Creating “Me” centric marketing materials – one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd in terms of your marketing materials is to stop touting your abilities and focus more on the types of problems you solve for your particular type of clients and how their life is better after they work with you.

  5. Failing To Have A System for Referrals – most accountants and attorneys tell me the #1 way they get business is through referrals. However, very few of them have a system in place to make sure referrals happen consistently. If your referrals seem to come “feast or famine”, you probably need to review your referral system.

  6. Having An Invisible Website – Over 70% of US adults begin their search for local services by searching the internet. Do they find your website when they search for “accountant in Kansas City”?

  7. Failing to Cultivate – for most service professionals, there is a time lag between the times when our clients need our services. If they are not thinking of us before they need us, how likely do you think it is they will remember us when it is time to buy?
  8. Not Marketing to Existing Clients – Don’t forget to keep marketing after the sale. You can’t get angry with clients for buying other services you provide from someone else when you didn’t tell them you offered those services as well.

  9. Failing to Use A Marketing Calendar – Successful marketing isn’t about hitting the home run. It’s about doing a few things well and consistently. Get in the habit of working on your marketing system.

What other challenges do you face that I left off this list?

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