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 Adland Digest FREE Edition #534
  Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

Information Your Business Needs RIGHT NOW

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You Got a 'Rep' to Protect

In the world of business, Reputation is one of your business's greatest assets.  It is one thing you should protect at all costs and nurture at every opportunity.  Anything that diminishes your business reputation may negatively affect your business and potentially your bottom line.  As a professional business person you have a responsibility to act as much as possible in the interest of your business and as little as possible according to your own personal beliefs. 

This is a tough mental transition but it is the transition from customer to business owner.  You may argue that it is your right to believe what you like and it's your constitutional right to voice that belief wherever you please including your own business.  Basically, if people don't like it, they can take a hike.  Realize that by taking this very noble and defensive stance, you destroy all chances of doing business with a part of your market whose beliefs may not be in line with yours.  Again, you may think to yourself "Who cares?  Most people believe what I believe anyway!".  Consider for a moment that you may not have enough evidence to support that claim; What if you were wrong?  Even if you were right, public opinion fluctuates like gas prices.  Where today your view may be the majority vote, in the blink of an eye you could find yourself in the minority at the mercy of the market you once alienated.  You may not even be doing this consciously.  In most cases, you fall into the trap of over-familiarity without even knowing it. 

Over-familiarity is a classic mistake new business owners make.  They build rapport with their clients to such an extent that interactions become casual enough to start discussing 'heated' topics such as religion, politics, and current issue viewpoints.  Large Corporate accounts and million dollar contracts have been known to have been lost by falling into this trap.   

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This is not to say that you should not let your beliefs guide you in making your business decisions.  For example: If you personally are 'Pro-Choice' in the ongoing debate about abortion and your business chooses not financially support a charity who is not aligned with your beliefs, that is your own personal prerogative.   However, if you place a large placard or banner on your website advertising your stance, be aware that you  could be alienating the percentage of your market that is not in line with your position.  While this is well within your right and your business may survive without the market segments dollars, you may be suffocating a potential stream of income for your business.  Furthermore, you never know if your stance changes or social changes cause public opinion to sway in the other direction.  You might be at the mercy of this market segment in the future.  Rest assured they will remember you. 

To avoid this, it's best to always keep a professional image when you interact with your customers.  Try to leave volatile subjects such as politics and religion confined to the realm of personal rather than business conversations.  You can easily build rapport with your customers without engaging in such topics.  "What's the weather like down where you are?" or "Hi Mr. Smith, yes of course I remember you.  How is your daughter doing these days?". 

Your business reputation is not built around your personal beliefs, it is built around what your business does to improve the quality of life for its customers.  Fact is that your customers care little whether you are a republican, an atheist, right-wing, Buddhist, or of no particular faith or political association until your beliefs collide with theirs.  In the end your customer is only concerned with the quality of the product or service your business provides, the value they perceive, and how they were dealt with by your company; all three of these contributing either positively or negatively to your overall reputation based on your decisions. 

The first article by Marcia Yudkin, our guest writer for this week goes into great detail about her experiences in the building of reputation.  This article will help you lay the groundwork for establishing yourself as a 'somebody' in your industry. 

Her second article uniquely titled "Clone Your Best Customers" doesn't deal with how to clone people physically but how to access more of your best/top paying customers (essentially cloning them) to make more profit while managing fewer customers. 

 

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Special Guest Articles

These professional articles written by industry leaders.  Adlandpro.com has a free article library you can learn from here.

 

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This Week Featuring: Marcia Yudkin

Marcia Yudkin creates cost-effective, creative marketing plans for clients all over the world. You can learn more about her reputation-enhancing marketing plan service at http://www.yudkin.com/marketingplan.htm and view excerpts from a sample plan at http://www.yudkin.com/sampleplan.htm

Creating a Reputation

Want to shorten the sales cycle for your professional
services? Want pre-sold prospects who need fewer or no
face-to-face meetings before hiring you? Create a
reputation.

Recently a room full of consultants agreed that you had to
meet with potential clients at least twice -- better, three
times -- before winning the business. "Then how do you get
business outside the area?" someone asked. The consensus:
Forget it.

Yet I've been hired by companies in Australia and elsewhere
without even phone calls, much less a face-to-face. Like
nearly all my most congenial clients, they weren't choosing
candidates to compare with one another. They weren't
shopping, weren't engaged in a systematic search. If
hunting, they stopped when they found me. Or they hadn't
thought of spending money on their problem until my
reputation gave them the idea.

Publishing books, as I've done, is just one way to establish
a reputation that pre-sells prospects on what you can do for
them. For image consultant Mary Lou Andre of Needham,
Massachusetts, a reputation-building tool has been her Web
site. In addition to descriptions of her services, her site
at http://www.dressingwell.com chronicles the media
publicity she's received and highlights her approach to
fashion through profiles of prominent individuals and
corporations that she's helped.

"Last fall I closed a national retail chain that found us on
the Web and e-mailed us in June," says Andre. "When I told
them I was about to give birth, they said they'd wait. In
September, they signed the contract. We never met face to
face! They modeled the entire project after the work I did
for Bose Corporation, which is featured on our Web site. I
firmly believe our reputation (and Web site) closed the
deal."

For translation industry consultant Sarah Pilgrim of
Wilsall, Montana, a reputation-building tool has been a
half-page ad she's run for years in a trade journal for
translators. A signed testimonial in it from someone in the
business and a credential of having been in the business
herself for 20+ years gives her high credibility with her
target market.

"When translation agency owners read my bio, they recognize
the name of the translation company I founded and sold,
which has a good reputation," Pilgrim adds. "When they call
to find out more, they can tell I know the business. And
therefore when I've gone to visit clients it's always been
as a paid consultant, with the client footing the bill."

Whether you use publishing, the Internet, advertising,
promotional newsletters or media coverage to build a
reputation, it takes time. Each piece of visibility
reinforces previous effects. With a reputation, you get
more inquiries like "Do you do...?" and fewer along the
lines of "We're looking for a _____ who does..." With a
reputation, pre-sale meetings drop to one or zero. E-mail
or phone exchanges can suffice. Powerful stuff!
 

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Clone Your Best Customers

Two businesses -- a women's clothing boutique and a mail-order operation --
recently consulted me about the same dilemma. Each had achieved satisfying
sales through channels that didn't allow for further growth. They needed a
fresh marketing program that would yield a steady stream of new customers,
and they were confused about where and how to advertise.

Like Dorothy with the ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz, they already had
most of what they needed for a solution, but they didn't know how to use
what they had. They needed to investigate who their buyers -- especially
their highest-spending and most frequent patrons -- were. In doing so,
they'd learn how to clone their best customers.

The general principle: Discover the characteristics of your current
customers and use that knowledge to reach more shoppers just like them.

The clothing store already knew the age range, income level and some
cultural interests and hobbies of its clientele. I suggested that they find
out which newspapers, magazines and TV and radio programs their buyers
read, watch or listen to, as these might prove prime advertising vehicles.
Once ads are running in many places, you can also ask customers which media
outlet persuaded them to come into the store, although many buyers don't
remember this information.

The mail-order operation had little knowledge of the income or the
educational level of its purchasers, since orders so far had come in
through the anonymity of the Internet. However, it was relatively simple
for them to send a follow-up questionnaire by e-mail, which asked a buyer's
age, educational background, employment status (employed or self-employed),
income bracket and profession. The brief questionnaire also asked how
satisfied they were with their purchase, generating glowing testimonials
along with a few complaints. Questionnaire answers would help this business
intelligently choose where to advertise.

To the clothing store, I suggested marketing strategies besides advertising
for cloning its best customers. Since many store regulars were involved
with charitable organizations, the store could let buyers know, through a
postcard to its mailing list or a flyer slipped in with purchases, that it
might produce a fashion show to benefit their favorite charity. Most
likely, customers' dearest non-profit organization appealed to others who
would also be attracted to the boutique's distinctive style of clothing.

Since many patrons had creative hobbies, like painting, music, weaving or
writing, it made sense to appeal to others who spent spare time on the
arts. I suggested selecting a different customer's creative work to feature
in the store every month. I envisioned a display of one woman's pottery or
poetry, with a color photo of her wearing the store's clothing. Surely the
woman in the spotlight would bring in friends like herself and patrons
would urge their creative women friends to apply for the honor.

Scientists say human cloning isn't quite on the horizon, but in marketing
cloning techniques like these already produce new customers!


 

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