Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Brand Basics: Aligning What You Say with What You Do

A successful brand communicates credibility, clarity and consistency – making sure that the way your company (brand) is portrayed is the way it behaves. A successful brand calls for clearly defined values differentiating you from your competitors. And these qualities should be consistently applied, across all customer experiences, starting with the marketing.

Create a clear and concise marketing message. Portray your unique value proposition. Push benefits, “what’s in it for them.” Then back it up with guarantees and risk reducers. And give them a clear call to action.

Refine your website strategy. Make sure your website is ready for engagement. Create landing pages with clear messages. Be responsive with autoresponders, and be able to enter prospects into an email nurturing campaign. Also, provide free resources such as online videos, reports and blogs that increase your credibility as an industry expert and build trust with your prospect. Also, a big part of your website strategy…
Perform keyword optimization. Identify the right prospect for your company, then identify the search terms they will use to reach you. Obvious for your industry – heating and air conditioning, electrical work, plumbing, plus your city. After that, brainstorm for more.

Generate leads through squeeze pages. Look for ways to grab at least an email address from visitors to your site, such as through a squeeze page strategy. Request an email address for access to a how-to video or special report or top 10 tips on whatever.

Place non-qualified leads into a nurturing program. Sales-ready leads go straight to sales. But if they’re not ready to buy, or if sales sends them back, place them in a nurturing program where they can continue to receive nurturing contact, especially a series of email messages. Stay active in social media platforms. But also remember to integrate online and offline. Follow-up phone calls, plus real live notes and letters will be included in your lead-nurturing strategy.  

If you need help making sure your brand is consistent across your company, let us know. Email a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach today at coaches@hudsonink.com. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What's the Point of Creating New Content?

This question – or a marketing-consultant-sounding version of same – is one of the key questions you should ask about your content creation. The point here is simple: If you’re going to create content for your website by which you intend to establish your expertise in your industry, you need to define your content’s purpose.
And it needs to be something other than, “I want to show everyone how smart I am.” We take it for granted that we would all be duly impressed by your intellect and expertise. However, as with all things marketing, the focus of your content marketing is not you, but what’s in it for your customer.
While your landing pages and other parts of your website will have lead-generation and conversion as a goal, your “expertise-enhancing” content in your blogs and reports and videos will often focus on how to “help” the customer rather than to “sell” the customer.
Which means that a more appropriate purpose for your content creation is, for example: Helping homeowners run their homes more efficiently. Or: Helping homeowners make smart choices about their home upgrades.
The other part of defining your purpose is knowing who your content serves. For your residential services, that audience is homeowners within a market area. Thus, your content should be geared to customers in your climate, region, season and any other distinguishing qualities for your community.
With purpose defined, create a mission statement – one that includes your target audience (homeowners in your city/region), the information you plan to deliver (home improvement ideas) and the expected outcome (time savings, cost savings, improved efficiency).
That means it could look something like this: Showing homeowners in how smart choices for their homes can save time, money and energy.
That’s how to keep your content focused, which helps you choose good topics and ensure your relevance. Otherwise, if you lose focus, you lose creative steam – and your audience. 

If you want some help on creating interesting content, reach out to a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach today by emailing coaches@hudsonink.com

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Coffee and Consequence


 I had my semi-annual meeting with consultants in what has half-jokingly become the “Secret Syndicate.” Fittingly enough, we met in an Italian Restaurant reserved months in advance.

The waiter was incredibly attentive. Responded to half-empty wine glasses with a silent, refilling flourish. Accepted the incredibly complex request of one of our pickier Italian members. (He asked something like, “I want al dente pasta, but don’t insult the prosciutto; I’ll know if you do.”) Our waiter took pictures, making sure the lighting was right, and that my head was actually visible in the photograph.

The meal was superb. Conversation and connection abounded. Toasts and plans made. My standard writer’s Manhattan clinked gently as I thought fondly of my departed family of writers who preceded me. For the waiter, a well-deserved 20% on the $770 meal.

Then something happened. His unassailable customer service shriveled against an idiotic policy. A small chink caused a fissure in the evening, prompting conversation and shaken expectations. My marketing coach Dan Kennedy often says, “Little hinges swing big doors.” Never more true.

After I had signed the check and calculated the tip therein, my partner in conversation smelled the espresso. “Ahh, that smells great,” he said looking up at the waiter, with check folder now in hand. “May I have a shot?”

“Sure” said the waiter. Then he did the unthinkable. 

He extracted my now signed copy of the receipt, and said, “I’ll print you up a new one to include the coffee.”

My jaw left chin marks on the table. All of ours did. My espresso-desirous friend was agog. “Did he really just do that?” he asked with incredulity. “Did he just risk a $155 tip for a $3 cup of coffee… on a $770 bill?”

Yes, he did.

And I had to refigure and re-include his tip when he brought it back. I probably should’ve impugned the act with greatly lessened total. Yet, countering his near sabotage of the tip was my decision to disallow pettiness to color this grand evening. Perspective. As I handed the check folder back, I saw him, the management, their idiotic policy and the restaurant in an utterly different light. So did those who witnessed it.

This incident has never left my mind because it taught me an important lesson I’ll never forget. Small things matter. Your otherwise perfect service call goes up in smoke when a size 11 mud print lands unapologetically on the Oriental Rug. Your flawless furnace installation results in a frustrated callback when you forget to tell the homeowner how to use the thermostat. Your $3,000 panel replacement is a riddle of confusion without labeling the circuits.

Give your team members the authority to exercise intelligence when a small missile of discontent is launched, or better yet, train to avoid it entirely. Don’t just fix the equipment; fix the customer.

After the Italian restaurant fiasco, I had lunch with my retired psychologist neighbor. It was his 78th birthday, and my treat. We finished a great meal and always captivating conversation. (Not many of my lunch mates regularly quote Dostoevsky and Maritain.)

After the check was presented and totals totaled, my friend said in eerily parallel fashion, “That coffee smells great. If my young friend has time, I’d love a cup.”

He looked at me for approval – and if you know anyone who can dismiss the birthday wish of a wizened friend, I don’t want to meet them. So with a nod, the kind waitress trots off and brings back two cups.

“Please add that to my bill,” I encouraged.

“Are you kidding? It was my pleasure.” And she turned away. She may be surprised to see an extra $10 bill on top of her ticket, with the words, “Mine too.”

Small things matter.

Adams Hudson

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Increase Your Clicking Traffic

Is your website feeling a little lonely lately? Are you like the webmaster who sees how his site is all dressed up for prospects to drop in for a visit … with oh, so much to tell, so much to share… and yet it just sits there hoping someone will enter its awesome URL in the browser field?

Well, there’s certainly more than one way to win customers and influence prospects in the online marketplace. And one of the most effective strategies for getting people to click through to your site is through the use of effective banner ads. (“Effective” being the most important word in that sentence.)

Banner ads should be at the forefront of your marketing strategies in order to match your site with the prospects it deserves – and not as an afterthought that’s thrown together quickly. After all, your goal is not just “Let’s add some banner ads,” but to look for ways of creating highly effective banner ads that will get you clicks. To do so, ask yourself these questions:

Where is your traffic coming from? Assuming you’re already using banner ads but want to make them more effective, study what’s happening with what you’re already doing. Give a close look to your metrics to understand the traffic your ads are currently generating. Where is it coming from and what can you learn from these activities?

Where is your traffic going? You surely want to know not just where your visitors are coming from but where they are going on your site. For example, if your banner ad directs to a lead-capture form, the call to action may be: “request a free estimate now.” Or if you’re leading to an informational online video, your call to action may be, “learn more.” Look for what you can learn from what’s taking place on your site.

How well do your ads communicate value? Though not in these words, effectiveness is determined by a prospect’s ability to answer this basic question: “If I’m your ideal prospect, why should I click on your ad rather than any of your competitors’ ads?” Effective banner ads answer this question sufficiently; ineffective banner ads under perform. Keep your message focused on your prospects, so your website will be lonely no more.


Successful Strategies Preferred

Apparently, not all customer retention strategies are successful. This news came from research released by Acxiom, Loyalty 360 in which 84 percent of companies said that they make customer retention marketing strategies a part of their campaigns.

This was a survey of 129 executives – not exactly the same as surveying the world. Still, they lacked satisfaction. Only about half – 48.8 percent – believe their strategies are effective; 12 percent didn’t believe they worked at all. Reasons determined? Lack of budget and effort. Unfocused strategies.

So what can you do to make sure your customer retention strategies are proven successful? Don’t take the lead of those 129 executives. Instead, point your focus to the areas they were missing: budget and strategy.

Customer retention, if it is to be a “strategy,” must involve: planning, tactics, application, measurement. Planning also involves budgeting. For example, in our current budgeting model for the moderate marketer (invests 6-8 percent of sales in marketing), 11 percent of that should go towards customer retention.

The average business loses 20 percent of its customers each year (for some it’s as high as 80 percent) just because they didn’t tend to the relationships. For contractors, tending to relationships looks something like this: 

·         Thank you cards, calls, emails after service/installation
·         Newsletters with helpful home content
·         Maintenance agreements to keep you “economically” connected
·         Reactivation letters to bring the straying back into the fold
·         Referral requests to bring more in
·         Social media content/interaction to stay connected and in sight

Keep this in mind: A business that retains 80 percent of its customers each year, and adds new customers at a rate of 20%, has no growth. But if it retains 90 percent and adds 20 percent, it has 10 percent growth which, in seven years, doubles their customer base. How’s that sound?


Let a Hudson, Ink Marketing Coach help your business. Email one today at coaches@hudsonink.com

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Boating Tips for Well-Intentioned Idiots


Okay boys and girls, it’s boating season! This means another season where Ol’ Skipper Hudson shares tips a’plenty with ye land lubbers. (This is how real sea-men talk.)

Now, first up is my most recent adventure in “letting” my wife see how to properly launch the Sea-Doo. Figured I start her off slowly. As I skillfully back the trailer – since that’s man’s work – I can tell she’s impressed by the way she is faking boredom.

My plan was to back the Sea-Doo in the water, let her hold the bowline whilst I park the truck, then gallantly mount said craft and ride to our dock just a couple hundred yards away. Simple enough, right? Done it a hundred times, right? Yes, but one thing changed. Just one.

And this one thing changed everything in the universe.

See, to be helpful and “sensitive” – since as all who cross my presence know that I emanate sensitivity – I added a much longer bowline. That’s because I didn’t want to back the trailer into the water and have the super-short, manly version of the bowline pull my wife into the lake, since this might greatly accelerate the reading of my will.

Admittedly, and with very soggy hindsight, I probably should’ve tied a Boy Scout-approved knot for this extended bowline. But, well, I was, you know, very busy being all sea-like and manly, and had to back the trailer and, well… something happened that I’m not all that proud of.


My wife is standing there holding the Sensitively-Extended Bowline as the Sea-Doo gracefully slid off the trailer. Perfect. Yet, the knot for said extension was a little too sensitive and scarcely even slowed the craft as it became completely untied.

From the truck, I can see she is now holding a thoroughly limp rope watching the Sea-Doo escape. This is when I used what might’ve been a colorful expression in a “non-inside” tone of voice. (Now I know why those sailors have a reputation for their language: bad knots.)

Since I’d only been planning a short journey on the Sea-Doo, I was in blue jeans, so when I jump in the lake, a sixth of the lake’s entire mass was instantly absorbed into my pant region. And though my mind was saying, “Race toward your gallant and errant steed!” my legs were saying, “Whoa. When did you put on 600 pounds?” It seemed a fair question.

I eventually captured the craft by its short, manly rope and trudged back toward the ramp, clearly having saved the day.

Yet, my wife is staring at me, holding the other rope that now looks vaguely noose-ish, with a look that seemed to say, “You have the sense of an under-achieving gerbil”.

She dutifully got into the truck, nodding her head in a disapproving and superior fashion. Clearly, she failed to understand that my launching lesson included this meaningful demonstration on “What Happens When You Tie a Dumb, Ineffective Knot”.

Epilogue:

The Sea-Doo and I made it safely home. And after 4 days in a solar furnace, my jeans dried out (though lake levels are still down). Then I reflected that any change in “routine” can summon the Gods of Practical Jokers to greatly alter the outcome.

It is this way in your “routine” of work, your “normal” drive home, your “normal” safety routine or a “normal” job that goes completely haywire. (And by the way, The Gods of Practical Jokers often make sure if ONE thing goes wrong in the routine with a customer, seven more you’ve never experienced happen with the SAME customer.)

The real lesson is to watch your addiction and complacency to routine. What is worth changing to achieve a better outcome? What have others experienced with that change? Maybe it’s time to extend your reach. But if you do, please double check the knot.

Happy Boating,

Adams Hudson


Questions for You:

1)      What have you recently changed in your “normal” routine of business? Was the outcome good, bad or still on the learning curve?

2)      What routines of yours need changing? Are your ad campaigns old and crusty? Salespeople presentations gone stale? Does your website have cobwebs on it?

3)      Is your Social Media marketing nearly anti-social and not really marketing? (In other words, are you still wondering when the leads are finally going to pay off?)


Send any answers (or other questions) to coaches@hudsonink.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Creating PR-Influenced Social Media Marketing


“Can we get some free PR somewhere?” “Can’t we promote this on social media since it’s free?” We sympathize with the desire to get something for nothing. However, there’s hardly been a professional marketer who hasn’t had to explain to a client at some point why a non-paid platform isn’t the same as free marketing.
Public relations has long been about communicating with your market through non-paid media – but never free, because it always employed certain strategies and content development. Now, social media is also tantalizing by its “free distribution” but it still takes strategy. Apart from Facebook and PPC ads and the like – which are designed to generate leads and get clicks to your landing pages –  most social media communication is about building relationships.
Facebook – Here you can have conversations through comments, likes and shares. Feedback in any of those forms is a good sign because your interaction is generating connection. Be sure to respond to any feedback through your own comments and messages.
Twitter – It’s a good location for networking, following trends and getting news. Search for content that is interesting to you. Follow those accounts. As you favor and retweet their tweets, you’re building connections and followers as well. Good tip: use a hashtag for topics, such as #saveenergy or #electricalsafety, or an industry, such as #plumbing.
Blogs – When blogs are placed on your website, and their content includes keywords that your searchers use to find you, they improve search engine results through the act of adding fresh content and through keywords that bring relevant searchers to your site.
Another upside from a public relations angle is that you no longer have to pitch to the media to cover or publish your story; you can do it yourself on your own timetable. But be sure to make this content of value – informative, entertaining – and reinforce your value proposition.
 Ask a Hudson, Ink Coach how you can boost your social media marketing. Email one today at coaches@hudsonink.com. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Measurement That Matters


We’re warned that pride is a bad thing. And I fully understand. Pride entraps its victim in a blanket of mock superiority on its way to personal doom. Boasting becomes pride. Pride becomes conceit. Conceit becomes no one.

Funny, but the ever-boasting blowhard of self-achievement ‘thinks’ that their accomplishments make them more attractive, more fun to be around, more likable. None are true. Just as this paragraph started, they make you a blowhard. Knowing all this…

I am extremely proud of my children. There, I said it. Both are very accomplished and excel further than I could have ever imagined. And all this was achieved with at least half of their parents not being all that great of a student. (Guess which one!)

If my chest pokes out any further, I will have Eva Mendez’ profile… or snap a rib. So, I’ll stop.

In the job world, the surface measurement of success is usually money. This – along with pride – is another set up for the Scriptural Sin Grab Bag. Sure, many worthy alternative definitions of success abound: title, influence, responsibility, result, impact. All are important; all are worthy of your focus. Harder to measure, but worthy.

Yet, here is THE problem with most contractors’ measurement and focus –

Most don’t measure, OR focus on measurements that matter. Look at your business license. Unless it says “charitable organization,” your obligation is to earn a profit. This profit – unlike the snide redefinition by the largely unproductive that consider profit as pure evil – became yours when customers paid you more than you paid for it. Simplified, but true.

I’ll go so far to suggest that accolades, unless they add to your cache, boost your position in the marketplace, distinguish you from competition or can be monetized, mean little. Even the Boy Scouts plot Merit Badges toward a larger goal.

Yet, many businesses don’t make the measurement ‘connection.’ They look at some surface indicators and skip to the next. Just like a “great” student can be a common-sense village idiot, one needs to look deeper, ask the better question.

The oft-braggy points of “followers on Twitter,” “friends” and “connections” are fine gold stars, but unless convertible thereto by sales alchemy, they mean little. A friend of mine who runs a fine business here was awarded as a “Top Emerging Business” from the Chamber. When I congratulated him, he quipped, “Now if I could only use that award to make payroll.” He has his head screwed on very straight.

So, what do you measure, and how do you measure up?

Ø  Lead Generation – This is the ‘surface’ seekers determinant of future sales. A good measure, resultant from good and steady marketing – italics intended. Yet, many contractors who get low lead counts don’t measure that about 60% of the marketing dollars should be in Direct Response marketing. More leads should result in higher…
Ø  Monthly Sales – Another surface measurement of health, but the more “telling” figures are just beneath: a) What is the average transaction compared to year ago, b) What are the source of leads that got these sales? Usually, people DON’T ask the preceding, but jump straight to…
Ø  Sales Closing Ratio The number of transactions resulting from the number of leads spits out this over-rated measurement. Since profit is the business’ goal, the deeper motive should probe: a) Gross margin per sale, b) Gross profit per salesperson, c) Source of highest margin sales. Closing ratio is important, but only within meaningful profit ranges. Seek both. Higher profit allows for excellent customer service, more marketing presence and the wise businessperson’s Holy Grail toward the measurement of…
Ø  Customer Retention Rate – Most don’t measure this, so here’s my first installment of Dummy’s Guide to Business Math. If you’re acquiring customers at a 15% rate (contractor average) but losing 15%, then the ‘next level’ will remain elusive. I figured that out by myself. You think the “15% loss” is over-stated? Contractor average is between 9 and 11%. If you’re making no effort to keep, you’ll eventually run out of “new” customers to acquire, and will have paid a fortune for that lesson. You’re going to lose 5% of them because they died or moved, which makes them very difficult to service. Work at Customer Retention, and you’ll naturally get this…
Ø  Customer Referral Rate – Another unscratched area that can have a profound impact on your business. Most contractors “accept” referrals – who wouldn’t? – but what if you pursued them? Reward, incentive, remind, request, just plain ASK for them in a polite, non-threatening way, and you’ll eclipse most of the dead-heads “waiting” on them to happen.

Our job, your job, is to earn a profit. In the end, the marketplace will tell you if you’re entitled. Repeat customers and referrals tell you even louder. Having the brightest employees show up to compete to work there says it louder still.

Measure the right things.

Make your customers proud to call you their own.

Adams Hudson


Question: What is a measurement YOU use successfully in your business? Answers to coaches@hudsonink.com