Email Marketing

One More Chapter in a Great Story

One More Chapter in a Great Story

About six months ago I wrote about a small, bricks and mortar business that had successfully implemented and was enjoying the fruits of an online system that increased word-of-mouth marketing for their business. You can read the original post here. In a nutshell, the business is a haircut salon for men--a Sportclips franchise to be exact. The owners, Chuck and Joan Matheny, were using Promoterz to 1) Collect feedback from their customers, 2) Establish an "opt-in" email relationship through which they could communicate directly with their customers, and 3) Give their customers an easy way to tell their friends about their store. Top line result: more than a 20% increase in revenue.

Here is a new chapter in their saga:

Corporate SportClips introduced and has been encouraging franchisees to promote a "Season Ticket" concept. Customers willing to pay for six haircuts in advance get a free upgrade to MVP service on each of those haircuts (MVP includes a hot towel and shoulder massage among other things). Because several hundred of the Matheny's customers have asked to receive updates about the store by email, promoting the Season Ticket with an email seemed like a natural. Think about the value of Chuck's email list: because he had reached out to his customers and provided a way for them to opt-in, he could now communicate with those that wanted to hear from him directly and at absolutely no cost. He didn't have to wait for them to come into the store or pay for an expensive ad.

Rather than just encouraging the customers to come in to a store and ask for a Season Pass, we decided to put the technology to the test and offer the customers a quick and simple way to buy the card directly online. The email included a "one-click" buy button. Customers could opt to have the card mailed to them or come into the store and pick it up. The test has been a great success. Several customers have purchased online and the orders continue to come in. Cha-ching! A new online revenue stream for a bricks and mortar business.

Small test--significant implications. Here is a small "old industry/bricks and mortar" business that has figured out a way to use the internet--not as a glorified yellow-pages ad, but as a tool to generate new revenue streams, increase repeat customer visits and collect new leads--all of which have a direct impact on the top and bottom lines.

The real "no-brainer?" The Matheny's used Promoterz to do all of this. The cost: $50 per month per store.

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more

The Miracle of the Reservoir

The Miracle of the Reservoir

I grew up in the west and now live in Arizona. There is a simple rule for growing things out here (this rule applies everywhere but is more obvious in the arid west): if it doesn't get water it doesn't grow. Early settlers fought their neighbors over water rights knowing that land without water wasn't worth a plugged nickel. In addition to fighting, they went to work and figured out ways to divert and contain spring runoffs, rainfall and the flow of rivers and creeks to use in dry times. They built dams that created reservoirs then built a network of canals and ditches to get the water to the fields. Wallah! Arid desert became fertile farmlands. Fly over the west today and the benefits of the reservoir and resulting irrigation are obvious in the green irrigation circles that dot the land.

Now think about your marketing and advertising efforts. Paying for advertising can feel like paying somebody to do a rain dance--you're not at all sure what you are going to get. But sometimes there is no choice. So you pay and with some luck some new customers fall from the sky. With a lot of luck maybe a lot of customers fall from the sky. Then comes the moment of truth: do the customers run off like a flash flood leaving only a little green in their path? Or have you built a customer reservoir that they peacefully flow into to be tapped again and again ensuring green for many years to come?

How do you build a customer reservoir? First let's be clear, the reservoir metaphor only goes so far. While it is possible to build a dam to trap water, trying to trap customers is a recipe for disaster. Your goal is not to trap but to create something customers want to be, and remain, a part of. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be remarkable-Find out what is most important to your customers and then be absolutely amazing at it.

  2. Be inviting-Identify your customers and invite them to be part of something great. Make it easy for them to join.

  3. Be persistent-Make the effort to stay in touch regularly, if you don't someone else will.

  4. Be contagious-Make it easy for your customers to tell their friends about your business.

  5. Be attentive-Ask your customers what they think, listen to what they have to say, and continue to make your business even more remarkable.

The early western settlers learned quickly that without reservoirs they couldn't survive. The same is true of business today, rain dances alone aren't sufficient.

A Better Mousetrap?

A Better Mousetrap?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a couple of entrepreneurs that apparently came up with a better mousetrap--make that pen. For how many hundreds of years have we as human kind been using writing utensils that are straight like a stick? Been a few at least and before that the quill. Then in 1987 Colin Roche, a high school student at the time, gets sent to detention and dreams up a new design for a pen to relieve his writer's cramp (any guesses as to what he was writing 500 times?).

The first prototype was built in his dad's garage (see picture-first prototype on far left) and the company, called PenAgain, did nearly $2 million in sales last year. Now, according to the article, they've been given a shot at the big time--thirty days to prove it will sell in Wal-Mart. If 85% of the 48,000 pens ordered by Wal-Mart and placed in 500 test stores sell during the first thirty days, they are in. If not, they may stay on in some of the trial stores or be completely dropped.

Getting into Wal-Mart is a big deal. They have 138 million customers every week! Competition to get a product into that channel is stiff. According to the chain they see about 10,000 new suppliers every year. Of those only about 2% make it to the trial run stage and that is just the beginning. Suppliers to Wal-Mart have to adhere to strict packaging and shipping requirements, monitor the sales of the product in each store, and drive customers into Wal-Mart to buy the product.

So what is PenAgain planning to do to drive customers into Wal-Mart to buy their pen? Unable to afford print or TV ads they plan to do viral marketing. Over the past several years they have collected an email list of 10,000 customers who regularly buy their pens. Mr. Roche describes them as "people who really want to know what the heck is going on with us."

I hope they succeed. Next time I'm in Wal-Mart I'll look for one of their end caps and drop $3.76 to see how it works both because I'm curious but also because I learned a few things from them:

  1. It is possible to improve everyday things that we take for granted. I'll never look at a pen again the same way. A good paradigm shift.
  2. Though it would be easy to summarize this story by saying, "A kid came up with a new kind of pen while in high school detention and now it is selling in Wal-Mart," the fact is a lot more than just a better mousetrap has gone into their success so far. The article doesn't say how many small retailers they work with, but $2 million in sales is a lot of pens and I'm betting a lot of retailers. That's a lot of selling to get to this point.
  3. It doesn't matter what kind of business you are in, building a database or list of customers that want to know "what the heck is going on" with your business is vitally important. The world may not beat a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap, but your loyal customers will if you have a way to let them know. I checked out PenAgain's website, you can join their mailing list right on their front page.
  4. Public relations efforts do work. PenAgain is doing something right as far as PR goes. I was impressed they were in the Wall Street Journal, then I took a look at their site. They've been in Newsweek, Wired, Entrepreneur, and San Jose Mercury News just to name a few. Whatever they are doing, it works and their odds of selling 48,000 in the next 30 days is going up.

Listen First!

Listen First!

Listening is hard. Let's face it, we are all problem solvers. If we weren't, chances are we wouldn't be in business for ourselves. We don't have a lot of time to spend listening to long stories. So we quickly pick out the "important facts," develop (or should I say jump?) to a conclusion, and move on to the next problem. According to Laurent Flores , the founder and CEO of, crmmetrix not listening enough to customers is exactly what is wrong with most marketing today. Here are his steps to go from marketing to consumers to marketing with consumers:

First: Listen to conversations. Learn from consumers and leverage the words consumers "recognize themselves in": a message is about an idea, and the words that support it best.

Second: Listen and engage the consumers who matter in your category. Leadership is not universal, but category related. Look at natural touch-points with your customers, such as the brand website, to find the influencers who want to engage with their favorite brands.

Third: Test the words. As stated earlier, evolving the message with influencers is key. Indeed, rather than just testing the message idea, test the words consumers will recognize themselves in. Let them have a say with a simple online VIP vote, for example.

Fourth: Seed trials and give them the ability to spread. Engage influencers further in trying and testing your product during an exclusive special VIP invitation. Give them the means to spread the word by making samples and campaign materials available (that they actually developed themselves, remember), and they will drive sales for you.

Fifth: Continue listening and keep involving them. Because markets are conversations, continuous listening to consumers during and after the campaign is key. Listening will not only provide the necessary measurement to better manage WOM, but will also naturally boost consumer engagement and relationship with your brand for your next campaign.

Some really great ideas here. When was the last time you asked your influencers or promoters (you know who they are don't you?) to vote on one of your advertising ideas? Modern technology makes the logistics easy. How about exclusive previews and samples for your promoters? You want them talking? First listen and then give them something to talk about.

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more

Taking Care of the Golden Goose

Taking Care of the Golden Goose

Came upon an interesting post in the Life Insurance Agent Blog. The title of the entry is The Lie About Leads. Buying and selling leads is big business in the insurance industry. Do a Google search on "Insurance Leads" and you will see what I mean. Just like any other business, finding new customers can be an expensive and time consuming process. Here is a quick primer on lead terminology from the Life Insurance Agent blog:

Cold lead—this is worthless—it’s a name from a mailing list broker. The person may meet certain criteria—e.g., age, income or household value. Above that, it’s just a name, like a name from a phone book.

Warm lead—the person has requested information by completing a card, an Internet form or expressed interest with no coaxing. Your best prospects will always be the ones that take action on their own, with no one convincing, no coaxing, no call from a telemarketer.

Telemarketed lead. This is supposedly a warm lead with interest in meeting—they tell you that the prospect is waiting for your call. I doubt it. Few people have the time and inclination to talk to telemarketers on the phone and sales people.

Set appointment—this can be a very valuable lead but ask how the appointment was made. Did the prospect first call from an ad or direct mail offer and then a telemarketer set an appointment? That’s good because this prospect took the initiative.

I think he makes some great points but may have left off the most important lead of all: a referral from a happy customer. Even the most qualified lead listed above has no clue about you--your honesty, your integrity, your ability to deliver great service. On the other hand, a lead that comes from a happy customer, that lead comes with your customer's reputation attached. That is, your customer likes you enough that they are willing to put their reputation on the line with their friend on behalf of you and your business. Countless surveys have shown that referrals are without a doubt the most powerful influence on just about any purchasing decision.

Does that mean that there is no place for buying leads? No, not at all. Especially when you are getting started. You have to keep your funnel full. What it does mean, is that every lead that you successfully turn into a customer is a golden goose. Your highest priority should be to take care of that goose so that it continues to lay the golden eggs of referrals well into the future.

Think it doesn't work? Tyler Slade of Canyon Lands Insurance, one of our PromoterZ™ customers, gets a 9 or 10 from 95% of his clients when asked how likely it is they would recommend him to a friend. Not surprisingly, he has received referrals from 60% of his clients. It works.

So here is my blatant PromoterZ plug: Apply some modern technology to your client care tools to make sure your geese are being well tended. PromoterZ™ will make sure they are happy, send information to them regularly, send them a birthday greeting, and collect referrals. Check it out: www.promoterz.com. End of blantant plug.

You work hard to make sure your customers are happy. Don't waste happy customers. How easy is it for your customers to share with their friends? Learn more
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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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