Tip – Read these ideas with an open mind, if they aren’t perfect for your business think about how you could modify them to made them fit.
Do you have any newsworthy stories under your nose ? An old couple returning to their homeland for their 50th wedding aniversary ? A young sporting team travelling overseas to compete ? Do you see a sudden increase in clients going to a particular country ? All of these stories could merit reporting in local newspapers and media. Find the email address of the journalist who covers local interest stories and email them. The best way to get PR is to become a source, journalists need sources, quotes and tips.
Look at things from the clients point of view, what additional information could you be providing that would help your clients ? Can you offer clients a list of local dog/cat sitters who can feed their pets when they are away ? Do you know where the best place is for them to leave their car when they are away for a short trip ? The more you solve the clients problems, especially the ones unrelated to selling them travel, the more likely they are to recommend you to their friends and family.
If you’re asking for referrals make sure you reassure people. One reason people don’t refer their friends and family to businesses is that they worry about the business under delivering, which of course reflects badly on them. Don’t just say “if you’ve enjoyed our service please tell your friends about us”, provide some reassurance that if they do refer people these new clients will be well taken care of. ”If you’ve enjoyed our service please tell your friends about us. We want to give your friends and family the best service we can so make sure they tell us you referred them!”.
It’s all about smoothing out the wrinkles. There are hundreds of interaction points where a client or potential client can decide to stop, turn around and go elsewhere. There are hundreds of little wrinkles in the process of dealing with your agency that make things a little bit harder for your clients. Every time you can identify and remove one of these wrinkles your business become a little bit more efficient at turning prospects into clients.
There are some process wrinkles that we are all aware of, and should have already addressed :
- Are your contact details easy to find on your website ?
- Are your opening hours clearly displayed on your shop front so that passers by know when they can visit ?
- Are your staff greeting people with a smile soon after they step into your premises ?
Once you have removed all of the obvious defects in your business interactions it’s time to look more closely for some of the more subtle wrinkles that may be deterring clients. It’s very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a client who has just walked in to your agency because you are so intimately familiar with it but if you can do that and walk through the process as they would you will find lots of moments of uncertainty that you need to remove.
Every time a potential client is uncertain or is forced to make a decision is a moment when they may turn away.
For you ideal client dealing with your business should be as smooth a process as possible, from the moment they find your website or pass your shop front to the moment they make their final payment for their travel.
I’m a long time subscriber to The Economist magazine.
For people not familiar with the magazine, which refers to itself as a ‘newspaper’, it is a weekly publication containing articles ranging from half a page to 3 to 4 pages in length. It covers topics such as international politics, finance, the developing world, trade and occasionally science.
While The Economist is the publication I most look forward to reading it’s certainly has it’s defects, biases and blind spots that I’ve come to notice over time. According to Wikipedia the magazine has a circulation of about 1.6 million a week.
The Economist has bucked the trend of falling circulation in the magazine and newspaper world.
I think there are some very interesting reasons for the magazine’s success that are relevant to anyone growing and marketing their business.
The Economist does not print the authors name next to an article.
This sets it apart from the vast majority of magazines and newspapers. Take a moment to think about the effect this fact would have on it’s writers. No doubt there are many pros and cons to this decision. Writers are less accountable and yet more free to write the unwelcome truth. Writers lose some professional advantage by not being recognised for their work and yet perhaps writers eager to create a ‘personal brand’ are not the writers that The Economist wants.
This is a Steve Jobs like decision. It’s a daring seemingly subtle change that alters the nature of the whole product in a single swoop.
The Economist is true to it’s identity.
The Economist is based in the United Kingdom and it doesn’t try to obscure it’s cultural setting to patronisingly pander to readers in other countries. Many information publishers bend over backwards to avoid alienating members of the audience by exposing them to the unfamiliar.
It uses local slang and cultural references without apology.
It’s a valid concern, no doubt some readers can stumble when presented with an unfamiliar landscape, as the writer Stephen J. Dubner can attest .
What’s the alternative ? The alternative is a neutered robotic voice, instead of the thick character of accent. Perhaps that is what the creators of the American version of the UK television show “The IT Crowd” were aiming for when they changed a reference to Tolstoy to be a reference to wrestling alligators.
The Economist respects it’s readers and doesn’t try to trick them.
Something very simple that the Economist does is to list the name of the country or region to which a story relates in small red text above the story.
Although some other news magazines also provide this kind of header it’s a sharp contrast to the headlines of daily newspapers. Daily newspapers, both online and in print, deliberately use misleading titles that will garner the most attention.
How many times have you read a daily newspaper story based on the headline only to find out that a key detail that would have modified your interest was not included in the headline ? It’s misleading trickery that shows a lack of respect for the person handing over their money for the product.
So what are the lessons to be learned ?
Well obviously all generalities are subject to the specifics of a particular business scenario. In a world where it’s easy to see people appealing to the lowest common denominator and winning it is great to see an example of the organisation taking the high road coming out on top. Not that a mixed metaphor like that would ever make it into the economist.
Jon Dale is a business coach with Small Fish Business Coaching. He has 15 years experience in IT and Telecommunications where he has been involved in account management, sales and managing sales teams.
Jon’s coaching philosophy includes making sure business operators are focused on what needs to be done and are not neglecting the tasks outside of their comfort zone.
Q. Is there a particular type of business that you specialize in helping or have a particular insight into ?
A. Small Fish specialises in coaching small businesses – that is from slightly larger than tiny, micro, one-person businesses up to $10-20m revenue. They are small, ambitious for change or growth, have a small management team (or a single leader) and often face a challenge – don’t know how to grow, see a growth opportunity but not sure how to get it, stuck in a rut or not making enough money.
Personally, because of my previous career background, I have an affinity for businesses selling services to other businesses – not necessarily technology. However, I think this is just me attracting people who have similar experience to me. Other coaches in our company have had similar experiences – finding it easier to attract clients with whom they share some common background or experience.
Q. What are the two most common mistakes you see struggling business operators make ?
A. 1 - Not doing enough to attract new customers – in other words not doing enough marketing. Many small businesses rely on a single or a couple of marketing activities and kind of wait for them to come or leave themselves at the mercy of their “market”. In our opinion (with some justification), that is not enough.
You need 12-15 different marketing or prospecting activities running at any one time (thank you Tony Gattari – great speaker, by the way. www.achieversgroup.com.au).
2 – Not paying attention to their responsibility to manage and lead their team (if they have one). Many small business owners neglect this and many are frustrated by “staff issues”. It’s a very common problem and one easily remedied by improvements in the way people lead and inspire, communicate, manage and hold accountable. Most staff do actually care as do most business owners and all it takes to make things work much better is to grease the wheels, so to speak, with a little leadership.
Q. Can you describe an experience in which a struggling business was able to turn around by making specific changes to their business practices ?
An accountancy practice I have coached for a long time was struggling – not enough cash was coming in consistently enough for the owners (a husband and wife) to live comfortably and stress-free. They were being taken advantage of by clients who took a long time to pay bills and, consequently, had 180 days worth of aged debt. They were undercharging and being significantly less expensive than an equivalent service from other accountancy firms, they had staff issues and they were doing nothing to attract new customers.
We worked on all these issues and more, increasing their prices, getting tough with debtors and enforcing collections, turning the fearful accountant into a marketing monster (honestly) and working hard to engage the small team of accountants and admin staff. It wasn’t immediate and it was hard work but, over a period, revenue and profit have improved, cash flow is hugely better and the principal and his wife are planning a holiday (playing golf on the longest golf course in the world – across the Nullarbor, for some reason J)
Although every business is different and often just a little bit peculiar, they often share characteristics and opportunities. The ones above occur over and over again.
Q. Do you think gathering information about how customers heard about a business and how efficiently enquiries are being converted into sales is important ?
An interesting mini-article about how a a failing restaurant used Twitter and Facebook to make a comeback.
The original news report is here :
The Flyers Back-story
A long time back, when CustomerCradle was a desktop application, not a website, we came up with some flyers to distribute to local businesses to try and drum up some customers.
It actually turned out that the flyers were a great help and had a much higher ROI than the web advertising we had been doing, but not in the way we had expected.
We distributed 150 flyers by creeping around an industrial estate late at night sliding them under the doors of businesses that looked like they could use CustomerCradle. (I have a funny story about accidentally setting off an alarm at a gun shop, but I’ll leave that for another time).
Well a 2-3% response rate is considered pretty good for flyers, what did we get ? We got one response. One person took the time to email us because of the flyer. Sounds like a pretty weak response.
That one person loved CustomerCradle however, they used it, they recommended it to a friend, they sent out an email to 15 other business owners associated with the same franchise telling them about CustomerCradle and they introduced us to a bookkeeper who was interested in becoming an affiliate / partner / reseller.
As a startup business trying to get feedback and the first few customers that kind of response was really motivating.
Flyer Version 1.0
How can we improve this flyer ?
Some of the improvements we made to this flyer before distribution included :
- A better use of space to focus attention
- Making the ‘call to action’, the next step we want the viewer to take, more clear
- Removing confusing jargon
Flyer Version 2.0
Travel agents have told us they love CustomerCradle, it makes it easier for them to measure how their staff and marketing are performing.
What are some of the other things a travel business can do to grow their customer base ?
Collect contact details where ever possible
If someone has expressed an interest in travel it is worth having their contact details. You can contact them when special deals become available or to let them know about once off travel opportunities.
As a travel business operator you should be well and truly passed having concerns about asking people for details. But if you do find it difficult to collect contact information from people remember that you are trying to provide them with discounts, opportunities to see places they may not have even dreamed of visiting and life memories that will stick with them for the rest of your life. Selling travel gives you the chance to enrich peoples lives, so go for it.
Walk in clients may simply want to browse through some brochures or have a quick chat about their plans. This shouldn’t stop you asking for their contact details, even if they do not want to purchase travel in the immediate future. Having a monthly prize draw running can be a great way to collect visitors contact details.
As the person is leaving you can ask “would youlike to enter our monthly draw ? We’re giving away a…<insert prize>”. Get the visitor to write their phone or email down on a form that also mentions that they are giving their permission for you to contact them.
Your website should have a field to collect an email contact on most if not all pages. Simply putting a form such as this on each page is a start :
Let me know about great deals! email :
The more specific you are in relating the visitors needs to more interest you will get. What does that mean ? It means that on the page of your website dealing with Greek cruises a form such as this will get a much better response rate :
Let me know about Greek Cruise Special Deals and Discounts! email :
The visitor is most likely on the site because they have an interest in Greek cruises, the fact you are offering something more precisely matching their requirements will make it more likely they will provide their details.
More travel business suggestions to come…
“One of the most common remarks I hear from Business is that ‘I tried advertising and it didn’t work’. My response to this is always the same – how do you know it didn’t work ?
The only way to really determine where your customers have heard about you is to ask them. people are happy to answer this question, in fact most are
quite impressed that you care enough to ask.”
Andrew Griffiths, 101 Ways to Market Your Business
“The easy place to start is to simply ask customers where they heard about you. This lets you track which channel of advertising reached them. Over time, this information will tell you the ROI on your advertising, so you can focus your spending.”
Ed Erickson – Thrive Strategy,Small Business Success – Being in the right place at the right time
“Find out where the sales are coming from. If you’re a mom and pop retail shop, ask your customers where they heard about you. Keep a tally of what percentage are coming in through social media.”
“The difference between a good and a great business is that the great businesses know where their customers are coming from.”
Judi Jamieson, Advertising Saleswoman
“The simplest way to log the effectiveness of an advert is to just ask customers where they heard about you.”
“Don’t forget to ask your customers where they heard about you. But if you’re going to measure advertising effectivness, do it carefully and systematically.”
ExplainThatStuff DIY Advertising,
www.explainthatstuff.com – Measure the effectiveness of your advertising
“An even easier way to gauge the effectiveness of your promotion is simply to ask your clients where they heard about you. It’s a very natural question to pose during the course of an enquiry or sale and most clients will be more than willing to tell you.”
“There is little point in spending money on marketing unless you are able to tell if it has worked. Ask customers where they heard about you, keep records and results and you will know whether it is worth repeating or not. Make your advertising work for you, by using coupons or promotional codes. Awareness advertising is the remit of the ?big boys?. Small businesses need to see a return.”
thisisspain.info, Mallorca Marketing>