Learn and Earn Word Of Mouth Marketing For Your Business

If you could master what has been identified as one of the most valuable forms of marketing, the one that most people trust above all others Word of Mouth Marketing 4and the one that is most likely to deliver sales for your company, would you instead choose to ignore it or leave it to chance?

Why would you simply choose to sit back and hope conversations will just happen organically about your brand? If you want to win the marketing race you need to unleash the power of word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

Most of the time, your talkers will come from the everyday actions you take to be a great business – they recommend their friends because they really like you. But sometimes you have to be more proactive about earning those talkers and getting them to spread the word.

Word of Mouth Marketing-GraphLook at the facts. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. In a recent study, 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of  marketing.

According to Susanne Fanning, President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official trade association for the word of mouth and social media marketing industry, marketers need to focus on the three E’s: Engage, Equip, Empower.  If you can master these, you can become the most beloved and talked about product in your category, which will ultimately lead to increased sales. “We’ve seen a good WOMM campaign generate thousands of conversations, recommendations and triple sales in just a year (yes, even for the boring products).”

Engage—Give your fans the gift of you. Engage with them. Listen to what they are telling you. Be part of the conversation about your brand. Be a presence in your fans’ lives. @NikeSupport is a prime example of customer service done well. They constantly respond to followers on Twitter, whether it’s about their apparel, Fuel Band or other products. Every few minutes, you can watch them respond to someone new.

Equip—Give them reasons to talk. It can be amazing products, great service, insider knowledge, social elevation, incredible stories, unbelievable facts or even funny disclosures. It’s on you. It really depends on you understanding your consumers and what they like about you and providing whatever it is they need from you. Apple revolutionizes technological devices and delivers amazing products to its consumers, allowing them to naturally rave about the newest iPhone. Another area to excel in and that’s on the rise is social customer service.

Empower—Give consumers different ways to talk and share. Let them know that they are important to you and that sharing their opinions is important to you. Help them find ways to share within their circles and find ways to help move their conversations around. Lay’s is an excellent Word of Mouth Marketing 2example to highlight how they empowered their fans to “Do Us a Flavor,” and allow consumers to create a new flavor of potato chips to hit store shelves. Over 3.8 million submissions were sent in 2013 making it one of the biggest marketing campaigns for PepsiCo owned Frito-Lay.

As is typically in these times, technology has increased social connectivity making it easier for consumers to do your marketing for you. A post Word of Mouth Marketing 3that takes just a few minutes for a fan to write will be seen by hundreds of friends who trust them, and it can rapidly travel out to thousands more. Very well planned messages have been shared by millions within the span of days.

Look at the Epic Split video by Volvo featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, the video was released on YouTube on November 14, and on the first day the film was viewed over 6.5 million times and shared over 32 thousand times. Then in four weeks it was shared over 6 million times across social networks. It quickly became the most shared film on YouTube. The clip has received extensive media coverage from all over the world as well, and has been the subject of approximately 20,000 editorial pieces online thus far.

It is simply not possible to achieve these kind of results without technology. The results are undeniable; consider the fact that those who read these posts as well as yours could potentially have hundreds of offline conversations with friends, families and acquaintances.

Engaing, Equipping and Empowering  your customers will fuel conversations and drive passionate Word of Mouth marketing that will make a huge difference for your brand and your sales.

Send us examples of your Word of Mouth achievments and be on the look out for Part 2 next week as we share these and more powerful WOMM success stories.

 

Suzanne Fanning is the President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official trade association for the word of mouth and social media marketing industry. Her social strategies have been featured in Advertising Age Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, and PR Week.

 

Technology Trends That Can Level the Playing Field

Writing an article about technology can be quite challenging as the pace of change in today’s tech world is difficult to fathom. By the time many of us feel we are on top of things, we encounter a whole new series of apps and devices that we “must try”. In many cases, technological developments can save us time and money but other times we seem to get bogged down in attempting to grasp it all.

Doug Cofiell blog image

Doug Cofiell CEO Ivystone Group LLC

Three short years ago I wrote an article about prioritizing technology in your business. The major topics in that article included the importance of your website, the permanence of social media and rise of tablets as a business tool. While the adoption of tablets in our industry has been slower than expected these three areas have certainly increased in importance in most businesses. More trends continue to emerge and there are countless developments that can be highlighted.

In an attempt to summarize some of the broader ideas without going into exhaustive detail I’ve highlighted three areas that are important to understand when making decisions about your business. These are not new trends but they will drive business decision making for many years.

  1. The Continued Rise of Mobile. Whether it is the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and “phablets” (those huge phones we are seeing out there) or the emerging Wearables market; the world is becoming more mobile. With WiFi networks readily available and costs falling there is no slowing down this trend. According to a recent study by Millennial Media and comScore, the ratio of mobile devices to people on earth is nearly 1:1.  Mobile is changing the way we work, shop and interact. We are no longer tied to a desk but we are more connected than ever; putting in more hours as our devices allow constant connectivity. With the computing power of today’s smartphone being greater than the computing power that ran the Apollo Space Missions, expect commerce to continue to be transformed as applications get more sophisticated.
  1. Shifting to the The Cloud is certainly an overused term but the shift to this type of computing does have profound effects on business. Because programming is centralized and can be accessed on any device it fosters the mobile culture and provides scalability to smaller organizations. The easiest way to think of the cloud is as a big shared service where you can pay as you go rather than making big infrastructure investments. Most of us use cloud based services everyday whether its photo sharing or music streaming. This trend will continue to grow in importance as businesses attempt to become more flexible and innovative
  1. Use of Big Data or more accurately Smart Data. Another term that is getting tossed around quite a bit and is relevant to most decision makers. As the cost of storing data continues to drop towards zero, companies are using these big databases to analyze patterns and customer trends. The implications of this are not completely downstream yet but all this data will help us understand our customers better and allow us to reach the audience we truly want to reach.

You can find many different cases of where companies use large quantities of data to make decisions. Here’s an example of smart data use on the product development side from Techtarget.com. Express Scripts, which processes pharmaceutical claims, realized that those who most need to take their medications were also those most likely to forget to take their medications. So they created a new product: Beeping medicine caps and automated phone calls reminding patients it’s time to take the next dose.

These three trends fit together with our mobile lifestyle being enhanced by the power of cloud based applications providing data that enhances the user experience. As each area grows in importance, they become more intertwined. The best part for an industry like ours that is made up of small businesses is that these trends all level the playing field; allowing small companies access to the same programs as larger competitors. Businesses can look and feel much bigger than they are by taking advantage of services that are readily available in the cloud on their mobile devices.

Lastly, a note of caution about technology in general. Back in the early 1900’s Gertrude Stein said “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”. I am afraid of what she’d say in today’s world given that the amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Technology is transforming the way we do business but it is important to maintain the core tenets of what makes you successful. If we remember to disconnect every once in a while maybe we can keep our common sense!

 

Doug Cofiell is CEO of Ivystone Group LLC, a professional sales agency providing wholesale gift, home and fashion accessories to retailers across the United States. Selling to independent retailers, large national chains and designers under two distinct brands; Ivystone and Simblist Group.

We’ve Got You Covered at the Ivystone Showroom Americas Mart Atlanta – New Showroom Look Book

We can’t wait to share with you all of  the great things happening right now in our updated Ivystone Atlanta Showroom- Americas Mart-Bldg 2 Room 1801.  Check out the fantastic vendor highlights in our latest Atlanta Showroom Look Book.

Join us for great products and events July 7-15th.

Ivystone Atlanta Showroom Look Book – Summer 2014

 

Google Maps-A Big Deal for Small Business

Leverage Google Maps in a way that can benefit your small business.  Check out the obvious Google Maps function (Google Places), to the more creative ways to navigate your small business to bigger and better things -all within Google Maps functions.

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Dominate With Google Maps

 

google 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Dominate with Google Maps

Source: Business-Management-Degree.net

How Satisfied Are Your Customers?

The more information you have from your customers, the better your opportunities for growth and capturing the all important holy grail of business, customer loyalty.     Customer Satisfaction

When you have accurate and worthwhile information from your customers, you put yourself ahead of your competition. Here are 6 actionable ways to get information and feedback from your customers to help improve your standing with them:

1. Ask Them. The simplest way to find out what people want from your service or product is to ask them. The problem is that many businesses owners often assume they know what people want.  Assuming and really knowing are decidedly different.  Always ask and act on the answers.

2. Be Your Own Customer. One of the most obvious ways to find out what a customer experiences when they use your business is to be a customer yourself. You can do this by walking the customer journey one step at a time and seeing things through your customer’s eyes.

3. Focus Groups. These groups gain information and insights as to how the target audience is using or reacting to a service.  Information gained from focus groups open up the opportunity for your business to see what it is customers expect.  Recent results from a focus group survey used by a bakery to review their customer needs discovered that they had three different types of customers: locals who wanted personal attention; after-work shoppers who wanted convenience; and tourists who wanted something special.   You can also use social media to gather this type of data.  Collectively it is great information to tailor products and services toward.

4. Questionnaires and Surveys. Getting customers to put their thoughts in writing on a questionnaire or survey is one of the best feedback techniques.  When well-conducted, the information can be invaluable.  As Volkswagen was designing the new Bug, they sent their existing customers a detailed survey stating, “We want you! Your ideas, preferences, and constructive comments will be evaluated and fed into the development process. So tell us about your impressions and ideas for the new Beetle. We’ll do our best!”  The result:  air-conditioning is standard and lighters and ashtrays are optional. Who would have guessed?  Car companies and manufacturers of high ticket items are consistent in getting this type of customer feedback, why can’t you be as well?

5. Use the Results (and real data). The most important  information on whether your customers are satisfied with your service or not is whether they continue to buy from you. While sales information may be a first line indicator of how well you are doing,  it is no guarantee that you are delivering the product or service the customer really wants.   Use the data from one or more of these steps to assess the real story and take action accordingly.

6. Customer Service aka Your Staff. Your personnel is the most resourceful and reliable, as well as the least costly, of your customer feedback sources.  Your staff should be encouraged to build strong relationships with customers so that they feel free to share how they feel about all facets of your business from the product selection to the check out process. Make certain they have an easy way to feed back important information for improving customer service and for managers to make use of what they tell them. There is also value in taking good care of your staff.  Recently a grocery chain, through their annual customer and staff satisfaction surveys discovered a direct connection between customer satisfaction levels and staff satisfaction levels.  Those stores where customer satisfaction is high are consistently the same stores where staff satisfaction is high.

You may deliver what you think to be the best service in the world, but if it is not what people want, your time and talent is being wasted.  Finding ways to get customer feedback is vitally important to your business, why do you think a majority of websites consistently ask for survey participation upon exit?  You should be doing the same and plan to implement one, two, three or all of the above techniques – your business can improve overnight.

Here are steps to help you get started:

6 Questions to get actionable feedback from customers

From Retailwire.com

Best Practices for Exceptional Customer Service

Five stars service

A customer’s most important and lasting impression often comes from customer service—that personal contact with your company’s sales or other customer service personnel. Striving to make customers feel not just important but genuinely comfortable and willing to do repetitive business with you and your organization should be the goal to strive for at all times.

Each person’s idea of exceptional customer service will vary.  But most people agree that if the person serving you goes above and beyond what is normally expected with service, products, time and insights, that would be exceptional.       

With the move toward social media and the ability for customers to comment immediately on Twitter and Facebook; customer service is under the microscope at all times.  Albeit extremely important to have presence with websites and social media, the personal connection still reigns supreme.

Exceptional customer service will absolutely save your organization tons of costs because if done well you won’t have to fix problems or correct wrongs.  Setting out to achieve and sustain exceptional customer service has a huge added benefit of developing happy customers and retaining them for the long run.   Key to achieving this goal is to develop exceptional personnel who understand the importance of customer service to the overall business.  Focusing on empowering all personnel to serve the customer’s needs will never go out of style.

So it becomes clear that the more complex our world gets, the more value there is in authentic, clear, customer connections.  Ron Frank of IBM summarized it well, “As organizations become more intelligent, top CEOs are focused on drawing deep insights from customer data making it possible to understand customers and engage with them as individuals.  In parallel, some have leveraged more traditional and personal ways to connect with their customers and the teams that serve them to a larger benefit”.

How to Improve Your Customer Service Game in 2014- is worth the read- from Intuits Small Business Blog.

What is one small customer service choice you have taken that has seen notable results?

Going beyond what may normally be expected, here are additional posts to help serve you:

15 Customer Service Skills Every Worker Needs

10 Examples of Shockingly Excellent Customer Service

 

Tips for Building Better Passwords

Love them or hate them, passwords are the initial line of defense in our daily digital lives, usually playing the leading role as gatekeeper to our precious online information.  This inevitability leaves people stuck attempting to remember several passwords and manage them properly, something that usually means they’ll create an easily remembered and crackable password once and use it everywhere.

While online security professionals can enforce policy on a password’s length, expiration and use of character types, typically only a small segment of the population creates truly strong passwords they will remember and avoid using elsewhere.

There are ways to build better passwords with simple changes that can add strength to your current password status.  Note this phrase: two-factor authentication is a big deal in the security world.

With that said, here’s a primer on passwords, easily shared with business colleagues or family members who like us might need a reminder about the importance and practice of online security.

Why are passwords important?                            Password Security

Having a password is the most basic level of protection you can have for the information you are storing in services or applications, be it your personal Facebook account, your online banking site, or your company’s customer tracking system. The problem is that everything is online now, and everything needs a password. So it’s tempting to make your password simple and easy to remember. Perhaps you have a go-to password you’ve used for everything since college. Or maybe you write your password down so you don’t forget it.

If you do any of those things, you’re probably in the majority, not the minority. Creating long, complex passwords that are unique for every service you use is a challenge, and remembering them all is near impossible.  (Learn about Last Pass, a password tool highlighted in the video below).

The problem is that simple, easy-to-remember passwords are also easy to “crack.” That’s likely why a major study found that 76 percent of network intrusions (breaches) in 2012 involved weak or stolen passwords.   A fix may be easier than you might think. For starters, head to Intel’s Password Grader to see just how easily cracked your current password is.

Once attackers have your password, they have access to your account and any information stored in it. From there, they may be able to do all sorts of things, and what was intended as a form of protection could become a threat in itself. For example, if you use the same password across multiple sites, once an attacker has compromised your information on an unimportant one, they can turn around and use it on a site you do care about.

Or say you use different passwords, but the same security questions. They could find the information for your security questions and then set up a fake “change password” request using your information and actually lock you out of an important account.

Bottom line: passwords are an important security measure for every aspect of your life, the key is to make them workable for you yet extremely difficult for offenders to crack.

How can you protect yourself?

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk and increase the protection offered by passwords.

Tips for passwords to protect your security

What NOT to do when creating online passwords

 

Inside the Minds of 10 Successful Entrepreneurs (and what you can learn from them)

Business owners are all different, each having a unique entrepreneur mindset that contributes to their success. Their entrepreneurial approach might have to do with their personality or even the area of business which they have chosen to focus.

When figuring out your own methodology and challenges of entrepreneurship, it can help to learn from the experiences of others.

What makes a man tick?Explore the mindset of 10 well-known entrepreneurs from a variety of different fields, I particularly am inspired by stories 6-10 . The hope is that you will find something in each of their stories that will help you in continuing your own entrepreneurial adventures.

10 Mindsets of Successful Entrepreneurs

From Small Business Trends- October 2013

 

Retailers: The Point of Sale Industry is Rapidly Changing – Are You Onboard?

To move forward into 2014 as a successful retailer you can’t just assume the key will be in stocking products in demand.

What do the consumers of 2014 want from their retail experience?

Customers want their needs to be served in the most efficient and intuitive way possible and Point-of-Sale (POS) systems are absolutely proving to be excellent channels to achieve this primary need.

The most widespread trend that will be taking over in 2014 will be the integration of mobile options. The days of waiting in long lines during peak retail seasons are numbered. Recognizing the need to adapt to the changing landscape of the eligible client-base – a younger and ‘always-on’ customer – mobile point-of-purchase systems are proving to be a win-win. Not only do tablet or smartphone POS systems streamline services and enhance guest satiMobile POSsfaction, this consumer-driven trend offers enormous cost-savings when compared to traditional cash register POS systems.

Additionally, the touch screen aspects offered by most mobile POS devices are more intuitive than traditional systems. Mobile POS systems do not require complex configurations or the need for a back-up server. Most employees are efficient with smartphones and tablets, which not only saves time from a staff training perspective, but also offers self-service for customers, yet another example of increased efficiency and differentiating value in the storefront.

Another trend we expect to see hit the POS space in full force next year is the integration of more loyalty programs and customized advertising and marketing promotions to engage with customers at each stage of the purchase process; from driving impulse consideration, all the way to the final purchase. Loyalty programs have been picking up momentum for the past couple of years and are now becoming fully integrated into on-site POS systems, both mobile and traditional. With customer loyalty software programs launching in every type of retail venue imaginable, cashiers are able to sign customers up within one to two minutes, meeting the easy and quick transaction consumers’ today demand while also reminding them of the added-value offered by the vendor.

Excerpts of the above were taken from Jay Graham’s article in Retail Info Systems.

If I can help you in your purchase and understanding of how a POS can make your business more efficient, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Shawn Thompson

sthompson@merchantsolutionsauthority.com

www.merchantsolutionsauthority.com

Celebrating 20 Colorful Years! Be Inspired by Company C’s Decorating Tips

Company C_20_Colorful_YearsPlan to inspire your customers this season and into 2014 with great merchandise (of course) and captivating displays of color. This awesome “color” inspired blog  from company C founders Chris and Walter Chapin is an overflowing cup of creativity to use and share with your customers.  

Company C was started in a garage in 1994 by Chris and Walter Chapin and is now a premier design studio and leading producer of exceptional home furnishings displaying their love and adaptation of color. Twice a year the Company C Design Studio brings you the hottest colors from fashion, the coolest colors from nature and the trend setting color combinations nobody has seen yet!

May your cup runneth over with creativity and inspiration……start your own colorful conversations by posting a photo of your unique seasonal displays here and on Facebook or Pinterest to share and inspire others.

” I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” Georgia O’Keefe

For suggestions on colorful products and designs contact your Ivystone and Simblist rep

CompanyC-Green&Serene

CompanyC_wisteria

CompanyC-Inspiration