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Death of a Small Business

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Scared Door OpeningThe six silent killers of sales successBy Julie Escobar, Director of Corporate Marketing

I thought I’d cast a darker than usual spell over this month’s article for two reasons: One, many sales and service professionals are feeling more tricked than treated these days; and two, to share what can happen to your business if you let any of these “silent killers” creep into your organization!

Don’t be afraid; just be aware of these top customer service mistakes that can be deadly to your bottom line:

1. Inaccessibility: One of the top customer complaints of all time is, “They never called me back.” In customer speak, that translates into, “They don’t care about me, and they don’t want (or deserve) my business.” Consider these tips, and be sure you consistently:

o Answer phone calls and emails within six hours, and always within 24 hours.

o Use automated systems to keep up with web and direct mail inquiries.

o Make yourself available; do NOT launch a marketing campaign and then leave town, attend a four-day workshop or head for the slopes. You laugh, but I wouldn’t mention it if I hadn’t witnessed it myself more than once. Ours is an “instant gratification” society. People don’t like to wait, so don’t make them!

2. Talking more than listening: I’m not sure who said it first (although I remember my mother sharing it a time or two), but this classic line really does put this point in perspective: “You were given two ears and one mouth in that proportion for a reason! Listen more than you talk.” Listening allows you to hear objections, get a real feel for the comfort and motivation level of your customers and effectively answer their questions and meet their needs. Listening attentively also makes the client feel important, connected and cared about. Remember this: They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

3. Dishonesty: Lies–big, small and every size in-between–have a funny way of sneaking up on you and biting you on the bottom line. Now more than ever, consumers are looking to work with professionals they can trust implicitly. When the economy gets tighter, each financial decision becomes bigger, and they need an advocate more than someone who will just tell them what they want to hear. Step up the integrity, say what you mean and mean what you say; it will mean the world to both your customers and your longevity in this business.

4. Forgetting that manners matter: It might seem to some that as generations pass and our world becomes more and more chaotic, it’s fine to let manners slide or common courtesies wane. For sales professionals at the top of the ladder however–, patience, civility and good old fashioned manners such as “please” and “thank you” as well as shaking hands, making eye contact, opening doors and being respectful are not just tools of the trade, they are marks of true character. The golden rule remains a life lesson that is truly “golden.” Top professionals wouldn’t even consider:

o Keeping a client on hold.

o Talking on a cell phone in the presence of a customer unless negotiating on their behalf or handling a real emergency.

o Using profanity or any disrespectful language in front of a client.

5. Quitting too soon: Sometimes “no” just means “not right now.” Too many business owners stop reaching out to customers because they’re tired of sending “stuff.” Consider the words of direct response guru Dan Kennedy, “Everyone shows up once. The ones who win keep showing up over and over again.” He’s right; it’s not about us, it’s about them. So hang in there for the long haul. Give your customers as much time, attention and patience as they need not only to be your customer right now, but also to be your customer for life. Every one of them could be worth tens of thousands to you over the course of your career in business and referrals.

6. Failure to get to know your customers and allow them to get to know you: Ours is a people business–and a busy one, at that! We all forget from time to time, and the more clients you have, the easier it is to not truly connect if you don’t have a system in place to methodically get to know everyone who will be the lifeblood of your business both today and for years to come. Create a database on your computer, or download our free BusinessBASE? and begin to fill in the details about your VIPs–birthdays, employment, children’s names, hobbies, important events, etc. Contact everyone in some way every 30 days, and not just with sales or referral calls. “How’s the golf game?” “When is your daughter’s play?” “I saw this article and thought of you.” “Do you have any questions?” All of these are great communication strategies and a great way for you to get to know your customers and allow them to get to know you.

Statistics tell us that businesses spend six times more to gain a new customer than they do to retain their current ones. That’s truer today than it’s ever been. Think back to the “old days” when you bought a Ford because your father bought a Ford and his father bought a Ford. You used your bank because it was your parents’ bank or one insurance company because it was your family’s agent. That type of brand loyalty has all but disappeared.

With changing times come changing challenges, and those who realize that extraordinary customer service, relationship marketing and perseverance are the “tricks” of the trade will appreciate the “treats” this business provides for years to come–never even pausing to consider laying their career to rest.

Need help building a customer base and staying “alive” in today’s sometimes spooky economy? Visit http://www.oppknockspostcards.com today or call 1.800.287.5710. We’re here to help you discover the powerful tools, systems and resources you need to scare up new business each and every month!


Five Keys to Recession-Proofing Your Direct Marketing

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recession Savvy business owners turn to the experience and insight of marketing innovators who have the ability to blend “old school” best practices and foundation-builders with new “in-line” marketing channels to ensure success in any market. Let’s take a look at five essential keys for keeping your marketing in step with today’s challenging times:

1. Understand the elements.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but in terms of what works and doesn’t work in direct mail marketing, know that your marketing piece can be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, but without the three essential elements of offer, information and response, it will never earn you a “second date.”

• Start with a compelling OFFER.
In any market, this is crucial, but in tough times, it’s even more important to ensure that you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and consider their wants and needs. Features are reserved for your interests and benefits are truly what appeals to your customer. Sharing how your organization can solve a problem, sooth a fear, or give a customer something of real value such as a free trial period, free gift or attractive terms is key. Remember to answer these important questions in your direct marketing:

o What is the benefit?
o How is it unique to your audience?
o What is your call to action?

• Include the RIGHT information.
Consumers respond to clear-cut messages with enough information to allow them to make a decision. If they have to guess, think about it or find your message confusing, they won’t respond. The bottom line? No response equals no sales. Again, put your consumer hat on to determine if your offer has enough information to move you to take action. Test your message on people outside your organization and gauge their response before going through the expense of mailing, or trust an industry resource with a proven track record for effectively matching message to market segment.

• Response equals results. The best rule of thumb in direct response is “make it easy for people to buy from you!” How often have you been online or even in line at a store and have had trouble “checking out” or finding what it is you came in to purchase. Always keep that in mind when crafting your response offer.

2. Invest in your mailing list.
Even more important than WHAT you send is the audience you are sending to. Strong, effective direct marketing matches the message to the market segment – so who are your best customers and what do THEY need to hear? It’s now or never time in today’s tough market. So, starting now, get organized! Who should you market to? That’s easy!

o Your current customers
o Your past customers
o Your competition’s customers
o Customers that demographically match your best customer profile

3. Integrate for a one-two punch. Direct mail is a proven solution in today’s tough market, but business owners who truly want to turn up the heat know that adding multiple marketing channels greatly increases their success rate. Consider DID numbers (direct-in-dial call capture numbers), personalized urls or webpages, even voice mail options to reach a wider spectrum of consumers and better track your return on investment.

4. Become a good habit.
Only the companies that maintain their brand, stay in consistent contact with their customer base and fuel their relationship building systems will survive in shifting economic times. In fact, not only will they survive, they’ll emerge as leaders when the market does make the shift. They say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. The Direct Marketing Association tells us that the ideal time between marketing mailings is 21 days. There’s a coincidence worth noticing. Develop the good habit of staying in touch with your customers faithfully, and you’ll find when it comes to putting their faith in a company to do business with – yours will rise to the top of the list.

5. Keep your eyes on the horizon.
Don’t panic. These are tough times, and tough times call for tough measures and tough-minded thinking. More importantly, they call for smart strategies and a need to keep your eyes on the road ahead. You can’t change what was, nor can you control THE economy. However, with solid systems in place, best business practices on your side and a focus and commitment to stay close to your customer base first and grow your business from there, you can control YOUR economy.

There’s never been a better time to look at what you’re doing to solidify and build your business. We’re here to help. From recession-proof marketing ideas to good old fashioned customer service. Your success is our business. We look forward to being the resource you can count on. Need help? Call us today at 1.800.287.5710 or visit us at http://www.oppknockspostcards.com or http://www.birthdayprospecting.com

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Written by jimschimpf

August 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm