The Importance of Consistently

by Lori Saitz

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of the adverb “consistently” is “in a systematic or consistent (reliable, steady) manner.” No matter what you’re doing, doing it consistently is the key to success. Now that I just wrote that, let me add the caveat that whatever you’re doing also needs to be in harmony with the universal concepts of good. I’m thinking someone who consistently robs banks will eventually get caught and therefore not be successful. But I digress.

Recall all the times you’ve started an exercise program. After several weeks of working out consistently, you start to see results. It’s not as important that you work out really hard or for a long time each session as it is that you do it consistently. Maybe the results are not coming as quickly as you would like; that’s okay. Trust that changes are happening. If you continue to work out consistently, after a few more weeks, you’ll see definite and positive improvement in your physical and mental conditioning.

If you want to talk about things moving at a glacial pace, we can look at, well, glaciers. They move incredibly slowly, right? But they are moving consistently and eventually you (okay, maybe not you, but a scientist) will notice that they’re in a different place than they were.

We can apply the same principle of consistency to your business and the good news is it won’t take millions of years to see the changes. Research has discovered that communicating with your clients at least 25 times a year is optimal. WHOA! That’s the initial reaction I get from people when I say that. “Twenty-five times a year is way too much for my business!” No, it’s not. Here’s how you “touch” clients 25 times without being a pest.

Personal contact

You probably talk or meet with each of your clients at least once or twice a year just in the normal course of doing business. Personal contact is very important to keeping the relationship going. If you can’t manage to make a phone call or have lunch with a client once in an entire year, he’s probably not that good of a client. And for sure he won’t be a client for very long.

So that’s two times of contact.

Send birthday acknowledgement

A card, a little gift, something to let him know you remembered his special day. When is the last time one of your vendors or business partners acknowledged your birthday? Has it ever happened? Generally your birthday is a day that is yours alone; it’s not like a national holiday that everyone is celebrating, so it’s your special day. If you have a good relationship with your client, sending a birthday acknowledgement is not a hollow gesture and will be much appreciated.

That’s one more time, so we’re up to three.

Share industry information or tips

You can do this through an e-zine like this one, regular e-mail, a printed newsletter, copies of articles from a magazine, whatever works for you. I recommend sending this kind of information at least once a month. You may argue that you don’t have time to compile stuff that often and that once a quarter is good enough. I’ll give you that quarterly is better than not at all, but higher frequency, more consistently (just like working out) yields better results. If you are providing useful information, recipients will not mind receiving it.

Do it 12 times a year, added to the previous three and we’re at 15.

Mail postcards or greeting cards

Promote a special occasion, upcoming workshop or unusual event. Everyone sends cards and gifts for the holidays at the end of the year. Now more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon to send stuff at Thanksgiving, thinking that will set them apart from all the December exchanges. Who is reaching out at Groundhog Day (February 2), International Customer Loyalty Month (April) or Flag Day (June 14)? Pick a few times throughout the year and use them to express your personality, say thanks for your business or ask for a referral in an unusual way. Your clients will remember you better and more often.

Every other month is six times, plus the 15, and we’ve got 21.

Recognize clients’ accomplishments

When you see an article in the newspaper or hear through the grapevine about a client’s good fortune, send a handwritten note, (or at least an e-mail), to say “Congratulations!” Who doesn’t like recognition for a job well done? And your client will feel good about you for having taken the time/interest to let her know you’re aware of it.

Let’s say you do this once a year and now we’re closer to the target with 22.

Write a column for the local newspaper, industry publication, association newsletter, etc.

Share your expertise with an audience that includes your clients, as well as potential clients. You position yourself as an expert and you reach a lot of people at one time with minimal effort. If there are 1,200 readers, it certainly beats making 1,200 phone calls, doesn’t it?If you get published three times, we’re all the way up to 25! Wow, that wasn’t so difficult.

In addition to these suggestions, you may have some other ideas on what you can do to keep in touch with your clients. Take some time today to come up with a plan for consistently communicating and improving rapport with your clients.

You’ll soon see that whatever you choose to do, doing it consistently yields fantastic results.


Lori Saitz is an appreciation marketing expert and the founder and president of Zen Rabbit Baking Company. She created the Zen Rabbit Gratitude Program for business professionals who believe expressing appreciation – for their clients, referral sources and anyone else who supports their success – is important.

Educate Your Customers, Grow Your Revenues

by Ken David

What is marketing? First, it’s about understanding deeply the needs and wants of your customers and providing them with greater value. You must clearly identify the demand in the marketplace. At a minimum, most businesses can improve significantly in this area.

However, the real power and leverage of marketing comes from the next level of influence, communicating convincingly your unique and superior value proposition.

Marketing is about communicating with and educating your customers, prospects, and referral sources why it’s in their best interest to do business with your company. It is about educating the right target audience on the unique and superior advantages, benefits, value, and results you can provide and sharing the credible evidence/reasons that support and back-up such promises.

In short, marketing is about educating your target market on the advantages of doing business with you and the reasons why they should trust you to deliver on your promises.

Instead of impacting one prospect at a time (i.e. direct selling), marketing allows you to communicate with, educate, and influence many buyers at once. In a sense, marketing is a one-to-many selling system. Marketing allows you to target and influence large groups of customers, prospects, alliances, referral sources, reporters, etc. in a single action.

Unfortunately, most business owners mistakenly try to tackle most goals (i.e. growing sales) with a one-to-one, single weapon, combat mentality. For example, instead of considering the leverage of marketing (i.e. strategic alliances, referral systems, direct mail, telemarketing, etc.) to grow sales, many owners remain in the same comfort zone and deadly rut of using a single weapon like direct selling. They miss the chance to use air support (marketing) to vastly aid their ground war (selling).

They fail to consider and try new options, new approaches, and new strategies.

While all businesses have a selling process (converting leads to customers), most do not have a legitimate marketing process (generating qualified leads). As such, they miss out on tremendous leverage and revenue opportunities.

Your goal should be to add an ongoing marketing process to your business. Again, marketing is nothing more than understanding the needs of your customers and then communicating to them the superior advantages/benefits they can derive by doing business with you.

Think of marketing as ongoing education. You are educating customers, prospects, and referral sources why it’s in their best interest to do business with your company.

There are only 5 ways to grow your business:

  1. Keep the customers you have,
  2. Bring in more customers,
  3. Increase the average transaction size (unit sale),
  4. Increase the frequency of purchases, and
  5. Say “no” to bad customers/prospects.

In short, keep what you have, bring in more customers, sell larger amounts to them, and sell to them more often. Do one of these well and your business grows. Do two or more of these well, and your business can grow by quantum leaps and bounds, geometric growth instead of mere linear growth.

For this article, we will focus on strategy #1, keeping the customers you have. Don’t underestimate the need to satisfy and retain customers. Most businesses put too much money, time, and effort into chasing new customers/prospects and far too little resources trying to keep their current ones.

However, we all know that you can’t fill up a bucket if you don’t plug the leaks in the bucket. Real profits and stable revenue streams come from long-term relationships and repeat business with your current loyal, profitable customers. Some experts declare that 80% of a company’s future growth comes from existing clients, if served and cultivated properly. As such, customer satisfaction and retention should be your #1 marketing priority.

The primary purpose of a business is to attract and retain customers. You can’t grow and remain in business without keeping the customers you currently have. First, you must measure your current attrition rate (loss of customers) and set a goal for dramatically reducing this rate.

For example, let’s say, on average, that you lose 20% of your customers every year. A realistic goal would be to reduce this attrition rate to 10% per year.

Bottom line, it is easier and nearly eight times cheaper to serve and retain current clients/customers than to pursue new ones.

Once you have plugged the holes in your attrition bucket, you want to serve better and get closer to these profitable and worthy customers. You want to better understand their needs and then fulfill as many of these needs as possible with additional products and services. Continually communicate with your customers. Educate them. Give them value. Give them solutions. Focus on them and their needs, not on your products/services.

Communicate with them in person, in letters, in faxes, in emails, via your website, brief newsletters, etc. Don’t worry; you can’t over-communicate with your customers. Like employees, keep them informed, involved, and inspired to continue doing business with you. Also, repeatedly ask your customers the following questions:

  • “How are we doing?”
  • “What other needs do you have?” and
  • “How could we improve our value to you?”

Your objective is to provide them with more value more frequently and as a result, you will benefit with more profits. Never sell a customer only once. Real profits come from repeat business. As such, set goals to increase the frequency and size of repeat business. You want ongoing relationships and ongoing sales. Also remember, marketing is about educating your customers.


Ken David is the president of The Growth Coach® in Haslett, MI, a business coaching firm dedicated to helping business owners get more out of their businesses and personal lives.

The Basic Argument for Advertising in a Recession

advertising in recession

from The Wall Street Journal
(publication information unknown)
View the original article

When times turn bad, they’re made worse by hesitation, halfway measures, and panicky decisions. Such as the decision to reduce or eliminate advertising. The fact is, companies that maintain or increase their advertising spending during recessions get ahead. A less crowded field allows messages to be seen more clearly, and that increased visibility results in higher sales both during and after a recession.

Recessionary Advertising Works

Studies by the American Business Press examined the relationship between advertising and sales in 143 companies during the severe 1974/75 downturn. They found that companies that did not cut advertising either year had the highest growth in sales and the net income during the two study years and the following two years. The studies also proved that companies that cut advertising during both years had the lowest sales and net-income increases during the two study years and the following two years.

And not surprisingly, companies that cut advertising during only one of the recession years had sales and net-income increases that fell in between.

Long-Term Benefits

A study by McGraw-Hill of both the 1974/75 and 1981/82 recessions confirmed the long-range advantage of keeping a strong advertising presence. It found that companies that cut advertising in 1981/82 increased sales by only 19% between 1980 and 1985, while companies that continued to advertise in 1981/82 enjoyed a 275% sales increase.

An industry-specific study published by the Harvard Business Review found that airlines that increased their advertising expenditure during 1974/75 increased sales and market share in both years, while airlines that cut advertising in both years lost sales and share both years.

The results of all three studies are consistent, clear and unequivocal: Those companies that advertise during a recession have better sales than those companies that don’t.

The way to minimize a downturn and take maximum advantage of the upturn is to maintain a strong communications link with your buying public.


Recession? Don’t Run Scared

by Marcia Yudkin

During a recession, scared businesses tend to cut back on marketing expenses. This appears to be the smart bet. After all, most customers have become more cautious about spending. So why not conserve your resources, wait out the downturn and have funds to spend when the economy picks up?

In fact, smart businesses expand during a recession because they know there will be a shakeout caused by the scared businesses shrinking.

During any recession, there are always more than enough clients out there to keep you busy if you continue to market, and market smartly. Capitalize on your strengths. Make the most of your business relationships. Create or revive programs that enable customers to move ahead. (I just filled a seminar teaching a highly marketable specialized skill.) Above all, stay upbeat, putting the dynamics of self-fulfilling prophecies in your favor.

If you behave like the scared businesses, or target them, you will contract. If you market to the smart businesses during a recession, you will continue to prosper.

It’s up to you.


Get ideas for marketing moves during a recession from articles I’ve written, including “Clone Your Best Customers,” “Getting New Business Fast” and “Creating a Reputation.” Inspiration costs nothing! Marketing strategy articles: http://www.yudkin.com/marketingmoves.htm


The Sky Is Falling

By Robin Sieger

Speaking to people in business at the moment, there appears to be a storm on the horizon. The newspapers and media are having a field day discussing the rate of inflation, the spiraling cost of oil, the increased number of redundancies, the drop in house prices, the difficulty encountered when borrowing money from the banks, and the all-time favorite the cost of living.

If you’ve spent time living in Great Britain, or know British people, you will know that our favorite topic of conversation is the weather, which is not as surprising as it may sound as we still are the only nation on earth where you can have all four seasons on the same day.

But the favorite topic of conversation now has moved on to the economy (so things must really be serious). The economic downturn has affected everybody, even successful business friends of mine have quite seriously told me they think they’re going to go broke. No amount of positive attitude in the world and well intentioned clichés are going to change their thinking. They have borrowed heavily from the banks to build a business and now the rate of interest is increasing and the value of the businesses is decreasing. Bad times!

I can’t remember the magazine, but it was about nine years ago that I read a fascinating article in which four billionaires were interviewed. The one thing they had in common was they were all over 80 years of age. The interviewer basically asked them about the 20th century from a business point of view. The four interviewees said they had lived through a number of recessions, and one estimated in the 20th century there had been eight periods of recession. They all saw them as occupational hazards.

One of them gave an analogy based on a love of sailing. He said when the wind blows in, you get the sails up and travel fast and far. When the storm approaches, you take in the sails, make the ship safe and hang on. He added when you sense the worst of the storm has passed, you get your sails back up as fast as you can and get going. The biggest indicator of hope is that after the storm comes a period of calm and opportunity that you must never lose sight of.

For many of you, there is stormy weather ahead—how severe and how long it will last I don’t know. I only know that I will keep my eye keenly on the horizon and the moment I sense the storm is breaking start, I’ll put up all the sails I can. In business, recessions come and go just as opportunities come and go, but you must never lose sight of the opportunities that the storms often wash up on the shore.

In the meantime, I’m going to wait until people start talking tentatively about the weather again, which will be a good sign.


Robin Sieger, from Scotland, now divides his time between between Europe and America. He is a successful businessman, best selling author, and broadcaster with offices in the UK and Charlotte, NC. He is a leading success strategist and has a world-class reputation as a conference speaker who passionately delivers high-impact presentations that are informative, inspiring, and entertaining. Robin’s humor and ability to emotionally connect with audiences has seen him become the first choice speaker at major conferences around the world. For more information visit www.siegerinternational.com or email robin@siegerinternational.com.

How to Create Engaging Content as a Finance Professional

blog marketing finance pros

Most people’s attention span is a fraction of what it was just a few years ago. The onslaught of digital tools has made us ‘skimmers,’ just as you may be doing right now.

As our brains act like a sieve, creating engaging content in any industry can be a challenge. Creating engaging content as a finance professional is one of the most difficult. It requires even more challenges than an average blog, article or the like.

Making finance interesting and even humorous is a fine line between sounding like an amateur or a professional. Yet, this is what engages a following. It can be much more of an uphill climb, but it can be done.

Out with the Old

In the financial world, a plethora of pertinent information is readily available but is often perceived as dry, mundane material that revolves around statistics, numbers and future predictions. This can often sedate readers into half-engagement, if any engagement at all. They want to retain the information but getting there can be a chore and for some it becomes a “par for the course” expectation.

However, what if your content not only informs but also draws in your reader to the point that they not only read every word, they come back to your info as well as recommend it to others? This is the Holy Grail for anyone wanting to get their work noticed, especially if it goes viral.

In a blog or article you want to gear your tone to the emotional side of finance as well as the practical. This, of course, doesn’t mean that your work should be fraught with so much emotion you lose your reader. It means that any feelings you may experience in your field are probably shared by others. Use these clues to keep it real but not over the top.

Outline

Like any finance project, before you decide to write content you need to know what and how you’re going to lay it out. Create an outline that covers the beginning, middle and end of what you want to say. Once this technical step is covered, adding in some personalization is next.

The Personal Take

Here is where it get’s tricky. Unless you are a known professional in your field that people want to listen to, chances are that self-indulgent work may immediately turn off your reader. Therefore, stick to writing in the third person putting your views into the eyes of the reader.

Stay Detailed

It is all well and good to write like a literary novelist but if you don’t say something meaningful with proof to back it up there’s no chance anyone will care. Lay out your content with bullet points, quoted financial analysis that is up to date, current events and news and various opinions (other than your own). All references must be sourced at the bottom of the page or as a hyperlink.

Title It Right

Using technical jargon in a title may be exactly what your reader will respond to. However, creating a “hook” that stands out from the rest could be your foot in the door. For example, if you are writing about how new technology has affected trading behavior you could use a title such as, ‘Machines Takeover: Trading in a Nanosecond.’

Go Digital Crazy

Getting read across social media platforms is the best form of self-marketing. When it comes to your engaging content this is where you can not only test it out but receive some actual feedback. Sure, grandma and all your loved ones may swoon but many social media users feel safe enough to spout their honest opinion.

Here a few tips to get your stuff on the social media highway:

  • Open Accounts – You should belong to every platform and any that are on the horizon. Unless you want to limit yourself to only financially related threads, connect and be able to link back to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter.
  • Open Your Mouth – Get word-of mouth recommendations of where your colleagues might connect.
  • Don’t just LinkPosting a link on your Facebook page to your blog or recent published work often gets lost in the sauce. Copy and paste a sample along with your link to hook a new reader.
  • Link Back – Many sites offer a ‘link back’ hyperlink or bottom source posting to your site(s) if you offer them a guest article. Others allow this in lieu of pay. Either way, finding someway to bring readers back to what your article refers to enables a solid reference that makes your work look credible.

How to create engaging content as a financial professional takes a ‘thinking outside the box’ approach to surpass all the competition. Stay clever and creative to make your work get noticed.

marketing for financial professionals

Megan Ritter is an SEO professional, writer and graduate student who lives in Los Angeles. You may follow her at https://twitter.com/megmarieritter.

Building Customer Loyalty

by Jack Pyle

Four years of Gallup Organization polls say consumers believe service quality in the U.S. has fallen and will continue to fall. Brand loyalty has been declining for years. The biggest gripes of customers are failure to do work correctly, slowness, high cost and employees who are unqualified, indifferent or even rude.

Some typical examples of poor service:

  1. Government agencies that emphasize paperwork rather than personal service. And many federal offices have almost incomprehensible voice mail systems.
  2. Hospitals whose first concern seems to be patients’ finances rather than healing.
  3. Car dealers who are only open for sales and service when their customer have to be at work.

The goal of organizations should be to provide value to the customer. But in most organizations, rules and policies are more important than customer needs.

Many managers take the wrong approach to building customer loyalty. They work on customer service-defined by the organization. The emphasis should be on customer satisfaction-defined by the customer. To build customer loyalty, you must focus on customer satisfaction.

The only way to know what your customers want is to ask them. Both qualitative and quantitative research is helpful. Build a customer satisfaction model. Ask managers and employees what customers want, and determine what employee behaviors will deliver it. Then ask customers to review the model and make changes.

Often the internal model is not what customers want. A hotel industry story illustrates this. A seminar group was asked to create a model of the service they wanted during coffee break. Then their trainer asked hotel management and service employees what was important in setting up coffee service.

Hotel people said coffee should be of highest quality and well brewed, served in polished urns with attractive china on a well-arranged table. What did their customers want? None of the above. They wanted fast service-no long lines. And they wanted phones and restrooms nearby. Not a single item hotel people considered important for good service was valued by their customers!

Is customer service worth the trouble?
A loyal customer spends about $150,000 over a lifetime with a car dealer. Does it make sense to argue over a $100 part? American Express research says a loyal customer spends about $180,000 over 10 years-employees make extraordinary efforts to keep them happy. Service is so good that U.S. citizens in trouble overseas are far more likely to call American Express than the U.S. Embassy.

Poor service causes 42% of customers to switch banks. Only 14% of car owners switch dealers because of the cars-68% switch because of “indifference” from sales and service employees.

Good service creates legends-and profit leadership.

  • Federal Express spawned an industry by providing a new customer service-reliable overnight delivery.
  • Nordstrom’s chain of fashion specialty stores saw sales skyrocket 700% in 10 years while profits soared nearly as fast.
  • Embassy Suites beats competition almost every way and is growing 10 times faster than the hotel industry. It recently was rated first by Consumer Reports readers against both mid-priced and high-priced chains.
  • Scandinavian Airlines saw its bottom line change from an $8 million loss to $72 million in profits 18 months later, following a $30 million investment to change its business approach and focus on service for the business traveler.

How do dissatisfied customers behave?
Managers still tend to think their customers are satisfied because few complaints come to their attention. Classic research conducted during the Carter Administration revealed 96% of dissatisfied customers do not complain. Smart managers use this research. They know that for every complaint, there are about 25 other customers with the same problem. If the problem is not resolved, they know people with problems will tell 10-20 people.

Smart managers encourage people to complain to the company and make it easy for them to do so because:

  • Complainers are more likely than non-complainers to buy from the organization again-even if their problems aren’t resolved.
  • 54-70% of complainers remain loyal to organizations when complaints are well handled; 95% will do business again if problem is resolved quickly.
  • Complainers whose problems are resolved tell five others about the good service they received.

The cost of getting a new customer is 3-5 times the cost of keeping an existing one. Yet most organizations spend 80-90% of their marketing budgets seeking new customers.

Creating a service organization
Building customer loyalty means creating a customer-centered management and staff. Service leaders typically do the following:

  1. Research. Excellent customer service professionals know that you begin with open-ended questions, focus groups and other non-directive methods to find out what customers really value and want from the organization.

    Common research mistakes include asking the wrong questions. One failure mode is to ask staff to brainstorm a list of service attributes, then turn them into a customer questionnaire. This approach gives you data for developing a service strategy that supports the existing approach.

  2. Develop a service strategy. Create a simple, long-term strategy focused on customer needs based on your research. It is difficult to provide excellent service to more than one market segment. Liz Claiborne and Frito-Lay concentrate on store owners, not consumers; Scandinavian Airlines and Embassy Suites target business travelers. Shelby Williams Industries sells chairs only to hotels and restaurants. (It owns the largest share-20%-of a tough commodity market.) Every aspect of American Express service is shaped by research. Frequent focus groups and two-hour follow-up interviews are used to develop 4-page customer satisfaction surveys which are sent to 12,000 customers annually.
  3. Encourage two-way communication. It’s an essential foundation for building employee and customer satisfaction. Managers and executives must model the behavior they expect from others. They need to learn to ask questions and listen well. Recent research has shown most quality improvement and worker empowerment programs fail because top managers continue their autocratic methods.
  4. Educate the organization. An absolute truth for creating customer satisfaction is that you first must achieve employee satisfaction. To develop a customer-service culture, front-line employees must be allowed and encouraged to make decisions. That’s where the service action is!

    Education is more than a training seminar. People forget 90% of what they hear in one week, according to communication research. Education is a continuous process which includes on-going formal training and on-the-job reinforcement. Managers and supervisors must be trained to be mentors and coaches so they help employees rather than give orders.

    Typical service training at most corporations involves a $1,000 expenditure per site. There is little on-the-job training, no follow-up to training and few programs to motivate employee behavior, such as bonuses. Only front-line employees are trained (sometimes only those in customer service departments). Usually there is no training for managers and supervisors.

The right kind of training is essential
Contrast that with training done by America’s service leaders. A survey by Citicorp of 17 companies known for excellent service showed that service training costs for front-line employees, managers, and executives averaged 1-2% of sales. Typical training programs share two key concepts:

  1. Vertical cross training. where employees learn jobs above and below their own level. Delta and Singapore Airlines require flight attendants to learn to handle reservations and trace lost luggage before they can fly.
  2. Horizontal cross training, in which employees learn most of the other jobs at their level. Hotels and food chains pay hourly workers extra to learn most of the hourly jobs.

Why cross training? It allows job switching and creates better understanding of how organizations operate, helps employees more easily solve customer problems and increases employee self esteem. Everyone has done the work of sales clerk at Nordstrom; at McDonalds everyone has flipped burgers; everyone can inspect a room for cleanliness at Embassy Suites; Avis vice presidents work at the front desk serving customers; and every officer has fielded customer complaints at Xerox.

Is it worth all this effort? Research suggests customers remain loyal to good service organizations even when things go wrong. Customers tend to be sympathetic when they feel a front-line employee cares about them, understands their needs and does his/her best to fix things.


Jack Pyle, APR, Fellow PRSA, builds trust by improving face-to-face communication through his company Face to Face Matters, Inc. His strategies and training help organizations with change, teamwork, leadership and crisis response.