Strategies: Make customers fall in love with your biz

Don’t let the heat of new attraction dim; nurture the relationship with your clients.

In February, love is in the air.

After all, February contains Valentine’s Day, American Heart Month, even Love Your Pet Day. But for small-business owners and entrepreneurs, I’m declaring February as Love Your Customers Month.

COLUMN: Give customers something for ‘nothing’
COLUMN: All you need is love … to run your firm

Getting and keeping customers is like any relationship. It takes courtship, commitment, and ongoing communication to keep the spark alive.

Just like any relationship, your relationship with your customers has stages.

Stage 1. “Find somebody to love.” Help prospective customers find you.

1. Show up. Make sure your business shows up when people look for the products and services you sell. List your business free on search engines like Google Places, Bing, Yahoo Local and review sites like Yelp.

2. Look good. Make sure your website is “mobile responsive” and looks good on smartphones and tablets. More than 9 in 10 Americans have cellphones, and a full third of those access the Web primarily from their phones.

3. Be social. Can you be found on Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter? Choose social-media sites that are most appropriate for your type of business.

4. Be interesting. Share your expertise. Give a presentation to community groups based on your know-how, create a how-to YouTube video, write a blog.

5. Keep at it. Market, market, market. Customers don’t just show up; you have to continually court them.

Stage 2. “You had me at hello.” Make a great first impression.

1. Get personal. For customers to choose you over bigger, often cheaper, competitors, they need to sense a personal connection with you. Help them get to know you — and try to get to know them.

2. Don’t make them wait. Greet customers quickly — whether at your place of business, on the phone, or via e-mail and through social media.

3. Mind your manners. Be polite. Smile. Learn customers’ names. Say thank you — a lot. Remember, your customers want to feel they are being treated like people, not dollar signs.

4. Know what you’re talking about. Understand your products and policies and be able to answer customers’ questions quickly and thoroughly.

5. Set a positive tone. Company culture comes from the top down. Treat employees with respect and fairness, and they’re more likely to treat customers well.

6. Speak their language. If your business is in a bilingual neighborhood, hire bilingual staff to serve customers. Consider translating your website. You’ll expand your customer base, increase sales, and grow your bottom line.

Stage 3. Get them to say “I do.” Turn prospects into customers.

1. Be honest. Under promise and over deliver. Deliver the product or service as offered — or better.

2. Price fairly. When you offer excellent quality at a competitive price, customers fall in love. You don’t have to be the cheapest option, but you have to be a realistic choice.

3. Provide something customers will be glad they bought. Always deliver quality, and you’ll increase customer satisfaction and garner rave reviews.

4. Let them in. Give customers a behind-the-scenes tour of your company, warehouse, plant, farm, or restaurant. This can be virtual on your website.

Stage 4. “Our love is here to stay.” Nurture the relationship.

1. Add a special touch. If you ship goods, surprise and delight with a hand-written thank-you note or a small token tucked away that complements your products.

2. Go the extra mile. Exceed expectations; give a little extra. Pleasantly surprised customers are loyal customers.

3. Use a good customer relationship management system. You have to be able to stay in touch. And you need a reliable, ideally cloud-based, software system to keep track of all your interactions.

4. Show them a good time. Entertain your best customers or clients. Host holiday events and open houses.

5. Be responsive. Train employees on how to solve problems. Say you’re sorry if and when things go wrong.

6. Be loyal. Create loyalty and rewards programs. Give customers incentives to keep coming back.

Of course, you should love your customers every month, not just in February.

But take this month to examine your customer relation and retention program, so your customers will love doing business with you all year long.

planning

Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her most recent book is Entrepreneurship: A Real-World Approach. Register for Rhonda’s free newsletter at PlanningShop.com. Twitter: @RhondaAbrams. Facebook: facebook.com/RhondaAbramsSmallBusiness.Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2014.

Family friendly food court to replace old bus station

The old Greyhound Bus Station on North Chaparral and Starr streets is getting a new life. Soon to be renovated into a bar and food truck court, the location will be family- and dog-friendly, featuring yard games and a patio bar. Photo by Suzanne Freeman
By Suzanne Freeman

View Original Article Here
January 30, 2017
Left lonely and abandoned, the old Greyhound bus station is nothing more than an eyesore in downtown Corpus Christi.

But eyesore, no more! Plans to renovate the site to become a family- and dog-friendly food truck court were presented at a Jan. 24 meeting to the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #3 Board, which oversees downtown programs. The board approved a $100,000 for improvements to the site as part of its revitalization powers.

BUS, or Bar Under the Sun, will be developed by Ben Lomax, the 30-year-old son of downtown businessman Brad Lomax, who owns the Executive Surf Club and Waterstreet Market properties. The $940,000 investment would turn the building at 702 N. Chaparral St. into a patio bar while making room outside for up to four food trucks. Yard games and pet-friendly areas would be available.

The food truck park should open in the fall, Lomax told the board, which will need to approve the agreement at another meeting before it is final. The funding granted is part of the city’s tax increment funding zone, or TIRZ funds. It can only be spent to encourage downtown development.

Greyhound moved its operation to the new Regional Transit Authority headquarters on South Staples Street in uptown last year.

Find more articles like this in In the News
Greyhound eyesore slated for new business

7 Ways Your Facebook Page Can Help Your Business

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social media how to

Do you have a Facebook page?

Are you using Facebook to its fullest?

There are many ways to use a Facebook page beyond simply posting updates.

In this article you’ll discover seven ways to use your Facebook page for business.

seven ways facebook pages help your business

Discover seven ways your Facebook Page can help your business.

#1: Collect Testimonials and Reviews

If you set up your Facebook page as a local business, you have the option to collect testimonials and reviews from your customers. While you can’t encourage customers to review your business for incentives, you can put up a sign at your business that lets customers know they can review your business on your Facebook page.

local business on facebook

Collect reviews for your business.

In addition to having a Facebook page full of reviews, you can add the best reviews to your website. To add a review, click on the timestamp of the review, click the drop-down arrow at the top right and select the Embed Post option. (In most cases, the Embed Post option will be hiding under the More Options link in that drop-down menu.)

facebook review on a websiteAdd reviews from your Facebook page to your website.

Use the Embed Post code to add your best Facebook reviews to your website’s testimonials page to boost their value to your business.

#2: Engage With Your Audience

The most important way to use your Facebook page for business is to engage with your audience. Your audience is composed of a variety of people–fans of your content, fans of your business, potential customers, current customers and former customers. With this in mind, create posts and content that engage these groups of people.

The traditional rule for audience engagement is 80/20. Eighty percent of your content should be for your audience, and 20% should be for your business (sales, marketing, self-promotion, etc.).

This means that the majority of your posts should be aimed at getting your audience to engage with your page. You can do this by encouraging audience participation and sharing content relevant to your niche or industry.

engaging facebook post

Create engaging updates that get your audience to participate.

If the majority of your posts fall within these lines, you’ll create an engaged and loyal audience that will be more receptive to the 20% of posts that promote your business, products and services.

#3: Take Advantage of News Feed Ad Placement

Facebook allows you to place ads in the right column and within the news feed. The catch is that you must link your ad to a Facebook page to display it in the news feed. Without a Facebook page, you’re limited to ad placement in the right column only.

news feed ad on facebook

Use your page to get ads in the news feed.

In news feed ads, Facebook uses your page as the source of the ad. Your target ad audience will have the option to like your page in addition to engaging with your main advertising objective.

#4: Ask for Audience Feedback

Want some insight into what your potential or current customers want? Survey them on Facebook. A survey not only encourages them to engage with your page, but can also help you discover what products or services they need.

poll on facebook

Find out what your customers want by polling them.

Poll your audience with a standard post to your page (for free) or use Facebook polling apps. Your choice depends on if you want to compile the answers yourself or have the app compile the answers for you, and if you want to collect additional information (like email addresses) that you can’t collect publicly on your page.

#5: Use Your Page for Blog Comments

If you’re tired of dealing with spam on your business blog, your Facebook page can be a great alternative to blog comments. Add a link to discuss the post on Facebook at the end of each blog post.

blog comments on a facebook post

Use your Facebook page as an alternative to blog comments.

The link should point to a post on your Facebook page wall about that post. This not only allows you to turn off comments on your blog, but also helps you build a fan base and organic engagement on your page. Plus, the people who see a great discussion developing around a post on your Facebook page will likely click through to read the blog post.

#6: Share Opinions as Your Business

Speaking of blog comments, there are over 128,000 websites using Facebook comments as an alternative to standard comment platforms built into content management systems like WordPress.

If you’re commenting on a blog that relates to your business, use your Facebook page to leave the comment instead of your personal profile. From the drop-down menu next to the Comment button, select your page and then leave a valuable comment.

comment from a facebook page

Post comments on blogs using Facebook comments as your page.

By using your Facebook page, you invite people who like your comment to like your business page, as opposed to connecting with your personal profile. Anyone who is in the role of moderator or admin of your business page can use your page to comment on blogs using Facebook comments.

Note that when you post comments as your personal profile, your business page is automatically linked next to your name and your position if you’ve added it as your current employer in the Work and Education section.

comment linked to a facebook page

Post comments with your personal profile, which links to your page.

You can also tag other Facebook pages within your comment, as shown in the comment above. While you don’t want to use this feature to spam, you can use it when applicable.

#7: Combat Negative Results on Search Engines

If your business is struggling with negative results in searches for your name on search engines, your Facebook page can help. Facebook is a strong domain, so a page with your business name will rank well in search results.

facebook page in search results

Use your Facebook page to create positive entries about your business in search.

While your Facebook page may not rank immediately after your website, it will likely be in the first ten search results. This means that one fewer negative result will be on the first page of search results for your business name.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of great ways to use your Facebook page. If you haven’t already, be sure to create your page today. If you have one, start using it in additional ways.

Note:  The Del Mar College Small Business Development Center is hosting a Facebook seminar titled: Step-by-Step Facebook How To: Business Pages  on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 from 2:00pm – 4:00pm. Call  (361) 698-1021 for more info or REGISTER NOW.

Building Long Term Customer Loyalty in Disposable Times

Building Long Term Customer Loyalty in Disposable Times

Building relationships takes time but growing and maintaining them long term takes perseverance, energy and purpose.

Jack Trout, Ad Exec and Author of  Big Brands, Big Trouble says, “Marketing battles take place in the mind of a consumer or prospect. That’s where you win or lose.”

We live in seriously disposable times. People outgrow their use for things and each other, so quickly. I always pay close attention when people talk about following certain people and companies for a long time.  That’s really hard to do today.

How can we build long term loyalty and win favor in the minds of the consumer?

7 Ways to Build Long Term Customer Loyalty

Be Authentic and Real

Be who you are, walk your walk and do what you tell others to do. People are way more savvy today and pick up on wrong or suspect intentions and motives quickly. Sure we all have something to sell, but let people know you have their back and “get” their pain. Can people relate to you? Are you being consistent and  authentic?

Deliver Fresh, Fab and Fun

It’s all about the experience we create and have with people and companies we interact with. Make sure you are refreshing your sites, visuals, marketing materials and presentation.  We all love things that are new, but putting a different spin on something we already do can stimulate people too. Make things easy to follow, entertaining and culturally relevant.

Directly Acknowledge Others

Nobody achieves success without the support of others. Be vocal, step up and directly acknowledge people who step up and support you. Use your social influence and media streams to shout out, re-post and let others know that you appreciate them. A simple “thank you” that is not automated can go a long way. All of the main social media’s now offer posting enhancements to add personalizing emotions.

Rewards, Incentives and Exclusivity

Develop ways to give extra value to people who show you loyalty.  Make them feel exclusive and special by creating a separate database for them. Use it to extend exclusive offers, content or incentives. Show them an “inner circle” status. Look at all the premium loyalty programs that exist today and follow a model that’s best for you.

Connect and Introduce People

Always be finding reasons to connect people for the right reasons and most apparent synergy, when you meet people at conferences, events and online. I know when I meet people, who in my sphere I should be introducing them to and I try to act on it quickly, while the interaction is fresh.

Feature, Reference and Mention

Know your colleagues, audience, customers and followers. Use them as examples in the things you write about, present on, post about and things you value. Blogging and social media are great ways to do this. Use your comment section to discover and choose some great follower feedback. Be selective, qualify and check people’s body of work out before featuring them.

Collaborate and Partner

In today’s business landscape, adding value to what you offer or deliver can be easily accomplished by partnering with other companies, products and services that are complementary to yours. Look at all the multi-branding and cross-branding that you see in travel, consumer products, education, sports and entertainment. We can now go to one store or shopping area and get groceries, eyeglasses, flowers, auto supplies, yogurt and stamps. Find ways to collaborate and partner but be very careful to “vet” people and know who you are entering into partnerships with.

Loyalty and longevity are the highest compliments a business can be given by their public. They are earned by valuing a deep appreciation for others and maintained by showing that appreciation consistently.

What are some of the ways you are fostering loyalty?

Loyalty Photo via Shutterstock

Deborah Shane is a Top 100 Small Business Champion, Top Small Business Podcast, Top 50 SMB Influencers on Twitter 2015 (Dunn and Bradstreet), career transition consultant, personal branding strategist and social media specialist. Deborah hosts her Top 100 Small Business Podcast weekly and her book, “Career Transition: Make the Shift” is available through all major book sellers.

Price Gouging

Resource: Ken Paxton, The Attorney General of Texas

Price gouging is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General has authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the governor. The attorney general has issued stern warnings about price gouging to businesses in times of disaster, but you should still be on your guard.

§17.46(b) of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act provides that it is a false, misleading or deceptive act or practice to take advantage of a disaster declared by the Governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, by:

  1. Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or
  2. Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity.

Sustained high gasoline prices have prompted price gouging complaints. A number of factors contribute to the current high cost of gasoline. The cost of crude oil is the primary one. The price at the pump also includes how much it costs to deliver the oil the refineries, the refining cost, distribution cost, taxes, and the retail station’s operating cost. When storms like Hurricane Katrina and Rita damage the Gulf Coast’s refining capacity, prices can rise even higher.

In most cases the current price at the pump is not due to price gouging. However we are prepared to act quickly if gas prices in a Governor declared disaster area spike beyond what the normal market forces set.

If you feel that you are being unfairly charged for goods or services such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators gasoline or towing, raise the issue of price gouging with the provider. Speak to them respectfully but be frank. If you are unable to resolve the matter, file a complaint with our office.

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/price-gouging

 

Judge overturns overtime ruling

Legal news, overtime pay

A Department of Labor rule due to go into effect Dec. 1 was overturned by a federal court judge in Texas. The judge issued an injunction against the ruling which would have doubled the salaries allowed to be eligible for overtime pay.

A federal court judge in Texas overturned a new overtime rule set to go into effect Dec. 1. The rule, which was set by the Department of Labor, was declared illegal. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman issued an injunction to block implementation nationwide. Mazzant is an Obama appointee.

According to the ruling, the Department of Labor cannot establish overtime rules based solely on payscales. That position was backed by 21 states, a coalition of business groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the case Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, No. 16-cv-731.

The DOL doubled the salary threshold for paying overtime to salaried employees with the new rule last May. The DOL’s rule stated that an employee who makes $47,476 annually must be paid overtime. The ceiling is currently set at $23,660. Additionally, the new rule proposed automatic annual increases to this threshold. It would have been the first significant change in 40 years.

Called white-collar exemptions, overtime rules affect only those employees classified as bona fide executive, administrative, professional or outside sales employees along with some computer employees.

According to estimates, more than 5 million employees would have been eligible for overtime pay — a change that would have had a significant impact on an employer’s bottom line. Because of the potential to significantly raise the costs of a company’s labor and wages, most small businesses are opposed to the proposed rules.

Those opposed argued that most businesses would not be able to afford the increases. They also argue it will harm the very people it sought to protect because employers would be compelled to reduce work hours or limit salaried positions.

Proponents of the change argue that the law is needed to protect workers and bring salary thresholds up to current economic realities.

Employers could have avoided increase overtime pay in two ways: Pay salaried employees more or change the status of salaried employees earning less than that into hourly, on-the-clock employees. Either way, it would have meant changes in employment practices and increased expenses.

Mazzano ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act does not allow the DOL to decide which workers are eligible for overtime based solely on salary levels.

The labor department can appeal the ruling and is currently considering its options, a spokesperson said. If the injunction stands, the next step will be a full court trial to weigh the merits of the lawsuit.

 

https://www.dol.gov/featured/overtime

 

Pinterest & Snapchat: 12 tips to dial in your visual ads

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, contributor Brad O’Brien offers tips to make the most of your advertising on Pinterest and Snapchat.

on November 10, 2016 at 10:41 am

By this point, we’ve all traded enough Facebook advertising Q4 tips (raising hand) to write a few books on the subject.

If you’re not using all the tools in Facebook’s ROI kit in the next few weeks through the busy holiday shopping season, you don’t have many excuses.

But what about for the newer social platforms that don’t have as many best practices in circulation? For retail clients especially, there’s still time to make hay in Q4 on Pinterest and Snapchat.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a cool combination of social engagement/proof and search intent. Since I last wrote about the platform in April, lots of new best practices have emerged.

Because keywords are such a big part of the platform, some unique optimization tactics open up, including:

  • Bucket your top-performing keywords into their own campaign to isolate them. This helps you try things like bidding higher on keywords that you know will perform.
  • Test keyword audiences against lookalike audiences to see which perform better. (For the record, one of our recent tests showed that CPC and CTR were better for keyword audiences, while conversion rate was better for lookalikes. But results vary by client.)

There are plenty of other more social-natured tips, too. Some of our favorites:

  • Exclude Custom Audiences from promoted pin targeting (this functions much like Facebook’s Custom Audience exclusions).
  • Let certain pins run organically for a while to build engagement before spending on them. When you start spending on new pins right away, it can take weeks before the pins spend money because there’s little traction with engagement.
  • You can create dark pins in the bulk editor; this lets you get specific more efficiently.
  • Leverage the new Pinterest pixels! They’re now in version 3, and they’re pretty darn handy for Creating Website Custom Audiences and retargeting audiences.
  • Pinterest description copy should be detailed, and it can be longer than what is generally used for social posts. We’ve found a sweet spot right around 240 characters, though of course we recommend testing.
  • Creative should have distinct text overlays with highlights, whether on the image or in a text box (e.g., “How to budget your money…” or “Create great dishes with these 100 recipes…”). Vertical aspect ratios (pins taller than they are wide) are still the best performers in my experience.

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Snapchat

Snapchat ads, of course, are the newest and arguably least known of the three. A few tips if you are considering Snapchat ads in Q4:

  • Try geo-fenced filters, a fun branding play that will only cost local businesses a few bucks to create a cheap, engaging experience for any store visitor. Create one that is fun and holiday-themed, and consider offering a discount at checkout for anyone who shows that they’ve used the filter. Use your other social platforms (like Facebook, Twitter) to cross-promote the Snapchat filter locally.
  • Snapchat is no longer just for teenagers. Popularity is growing most, especially in the 25–34 age group, which grew from 11.3 million to 15.8 million users in just the last year. With a broader demographic flocking to the platform, this makes it more compelling to many advertisers.
  • Snap ads have grown from only being seen in the Discover section of the platform to Stories, showing among the content of the users you are following. Further, some newer features of Snap ads allow the user to “swipe up” on the ad to see more; you can even direct them to articles, videos, app stores and mobile website experiences.
  • Having the sound on is a self-selected feature that most Snapchat users will opt into. This is because the bulk of the platform is actively creating and viewing video, and this naturally will lead to having your sound turned on to hear and be heard. Facebook video, conversely, has sound off on video by default, resulting in up to 85 percent of Facebook video being watched with the sound off.

By the time Q4 2017 rolls around, my (educated) guess is that Snapchat will have dozens of new features to share, and Pinterest will be a well-oiled holiday machine.

For now, our advice is the same as usual: Test any new features aggressively before diving in, but don’t be afraid to grab an opportunity before your competition.