This video, called “This is Water” narrated by David Foster Wallace, reminded me that we all have a choice with how we perceive the world around us. The only variable is whether we have the guts to make the choice to be happy.
As a serial entrepreneur, I have learned a lot about myself and people in general over the years. The first thing I tell someone who’s interested in starting a business is DON’T! If that doesn’t deter them, I ask them WHY they want to start a business. The answers astound me sometimes.
“I want to open a sandwich shop,” a good friend said. My reply: “If you’re great at making sandwiches, then make sandwiches for your friends and family on a nice Saturday afternoon – don’t open a sandwich shop!” Owning a successful sandwich shop has VERY LITTLE to do with whether you make good sandwiches. You have to find a location, negotiate a lease, borrow money for equipment, hire and train staff (or work 18 hours per day), advertise, buy produce, deal with spoiled produce, deal with the health department, get a point of sale system…and you haven’t made a single sandwich yet!
There’s nothing wrong with working for someone else – some people get paid to taste ice cream all day! If in second grade someone asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, and the answer was “ice cream taster,” everyone would have laughed. Who got the last laugh?
My brother said it best to me, “Alex, the difference between you and most people is your capacity for pain.” It took me a minute to appreciate this compliment (at least I think it was a compliment), but he’s right. I thrive on multitasking, I love to build things. I enjoy putting ‘systems’ in place to grow a business. I not only LIKE the pain of running a business, I REQUIRE it to be happy. I know this about myself, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Life is YOURS TO WASTE. Yes, you have a choice – and that choice should be based on what will give you joy in life, not on being afraid.
I’ve screwed up many times in my life, more than I care to admit, but even during those tough times, I took comfort in the fact that I tried my best and gave it hell. No regrets. I challenge you to do the same.
I’ve been a business owner my whole life. I owned one of the first web development firms in San Luis Obispo. I started what later became the second largest virtual tour company in the country. I sold that to what is now the second largest newspaper group in the country, and got a chance to try my hand at the newspaper business.
I grew an IT company from 15 employees to 40 in less than 2 years. And I’ve provided consulting to countless business owners over the years. Bottom line: I’ve seen a lot. People often ask me what key factors I look at when considering my involvement in a business, so here they are:
1) Risk vs. reward
What do I get for my sweat equity? Can I turn a little money – and a lot of hard work – into more money?
2) What’s the income potential?
Can this make me the kind of returns I want?
3) Recurring income
Do I have to fight for income each month, or do I build up recurring income the longer I work at it?
4) Am I excited to be a part of it?
I love technology, I love helping business owners. I want an excuse to NEED the new iPhone.
5) Freedom with my time
Do I have to open my doors each day at the same time? Can I take a vacation without the business falling apart?
You may have seen the statistics – one study claims that more than 80% of small businesses that invest in mobile marketing see increased business as a result – but how can you go about capturing some of those gains yourself?
Small Business Computing recently looked at a few companies that are engaged in mobile marketing to find out.
Ron’s Auto Repair Center of Ames, Iowa, uses Yodle, a service that helps small businesses with mobile-optimized websites, listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing maps, and paid-search services across multiple desktop and mobile outlets. The service doesn’t require much sophistication to use. Using a unique tracking number, Ron’s Auto Repair can tell where calls come from and see how many of them are a direct result of online and mobile marketing spending. The service has so far been worth about $9,000 in new sales a month, the business estimates.
Rok Bistro of Sunnyvale, Calif., uses FanMinder to send out marketing messages to all channels, including Twitter, email, texts and Facebook. Mobile coupons have turned out to be a good marketing tool for Rok Bistro. The coupons, which are trackable through FanMinder, allow the restaurant to see how many people click on the offer and redeem it at the restaurant. When a customer shows the server a coupon on his or her mobile device, the server simply clicks a button to redeem it. In the restaurant, customers can also scan QR codes or send a text message to get an immediate discount and sign up for the Rok Bistro mailing list.
At a minimum, all businesses should have a mobile-optimized website, and make your website mobile-friendly by placing your location and contact information in a prominent place. Clarity, simplicity and speed matter most for mobile users, so make sure it’s clear what you do and how you can help customers. And monitor mentions of your business on Yelp and other sites that can influence consumers.
Adapted from Small Business Mobile Marketing Strategies That Work by Vangie Beal at Small Business Computing. Follow Small Business Computing on Twitter.
In Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Sales, one of the sections I like the most is the one on power questions. He goes in depth on how to engage your potential client with questions in a way that no one else is. These power questions will make you stand out among others.
When you are trying to close a deal, you need to be able to make the potential client stop, think and engage with you. That’s what power questions do.
What Gitomer says is true: “You become known by the questions you ask”.
Here are Gitomer’s 7.5 power question strategies known to result in success:
1. Ask the prospect questions that make them evaluate new information
When you think about it, the goal is to get the prospect to think outside the box and break away from the normalcy of their day. You want to ask them questions that no one else is asking. They probably have sales people coming through their door every day, so how are you going to break away from the monotony of sales questions and really impress this prospect?
2. Ask questions that qualify the needs of the buyer
Getting a good understanding of what the prospect goes through on a daily basis is so important. It’s about getting them to actually acknowledge their own needs and really break down to the core the specific things they want to accomplish. That’s what qualification is all about. Anytime you can get the prospect to be very clear about their needs and goals, you can hold them accountable for those goals later on down the road.
3. Ask questions about improved productivity or profits
This is where you are getting the prospect to really think about their day-to-day. The idea is to get a feel for the operations of their business. It establishes the relationship and the environment that we want to create with this prospect. Sometimes they will share information that really shows you what kind of business owner they are or what type of boss they are, and that will really help you with the sale.
4. Ask questions about company goals or even personal goals.
Imagine you’re a business owner and someone sits down with you and asks you, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years? How many locations do you hope to have 5 years from now?” Those are questions that will make you stop and think. You don’t have an immediate response to those questions because no one else has asked them. Even though those questions may not have anything to do with you or your business directly, they are the kinds of questions that build that relationship with the prospect. It demonstrates that you really care.
5. Ask questions that separate you from your competition, not compare you to them
You don’t want anyone to think that you are the same as, or even just a little bit better, than your competitors. You want prospects to think of you as entirely different than the competition. We can accomplish this by asking the right questions. You can’t force a buying environment–it needs to be created with the participation of the prospect. Make sure your questions are a whole lot different than what other sales people are asking.
6. Ask power questions that make you customer or prospect think before giving a response.
Questions that make your prospect stop and think prove that you’re getting through to them. Going back to the question “Where do you want to be in 10 years?”, this is the type of question that they don’t have the answer on the tip of their tongue. No one has asked it before, so they can’t just spit out some automatic response. They really have to stop and think about it.
7. Ask power questions that create a buying atmosphere, not a selling one.
Power questions expose the prospect’s needs and get them to shop YOU. You are asking them questions like, “What do you like about our service?” After you ask a question, be silent! Get them to say what they’re thinking. The silence exposes their feelings and their shopper mentality. You get them using the creative side of their brain, exploring your product, and you just sit back and let them talk.
7.5 A critical success strategy is to enhance your listening skills.
As the customer is giving their answers to your BRILLIANT questions, write them down. Writing your customers answers proves that you care, preserves your data for follow-up, keeps the record straight, and it makes the customer feel important.
When the customer sees that you are actually taking note of the things they are saying, you build the relationship and create the buying environment.
Keep in mind, none of this is stuff that will come naturally to you. It takes practice and it takes preparation, but these are very important elements that you absolutely MUST be hitting in your sales presentations.
New York City baker Eileen Avezzano says she has a better way than Groupon Inc. (GRPN)’s online deals to entice customers to buy her cheesecakes again: She doles out loyalty cards that reward buyers for return visits.
The cards, designed by Cartera Commerce Inc., are digital instead of physical, and are linked to credit cards consumers already use. They let merchants provide a discount, or a reward such as airline miles, every time consumers buy. A shopper may swipe a card, and a retailer will automatically deduct some money off the bill.
Groupon is seeking to raise as much as $540 million selling 30 million shares for $16 to $18 apiece, according to regulatory filings. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg
Businesses like Avezzano’s can use the programs to collect data on when customers shop, how often they return and how much they spend — way beyond the scope of old-fashioned paper punch cards. That can make them even more valuable than coupons from Groupon and LivingSocial. About 900 million transactions will be conducted with cards connected to merchant loyalty programs in 2015, generating $1.7 billion in revenue for the providers, Aite Group LLC estimates. That’s up from $300 million in 2011.
“I see them going head-to-head,” said Peter Krasilovsky, a vice president at researcher BIA/Kelsey. “It’s an evolution of the deals space. The goal is to go beyond new customer acquisitions and become part of the integrated business of merchants.”
The digital loyalty program market began exploding around 2010, when startups and venture capitalists starting thinking about how to bring loyalty punch cards into the digital age, Krasilovsky said in an interview. Makers of loyalty-card software have attracted more than $155 million in venture capital, he said.
Cartera raised $12.2 million this month in a round of funding led by Venture Capital Fund of New England. Along with Cartera, startups such as Plink LLC, CardSpring and Mirth Inc. are gaining attention in the world of merchant deals.
“We think it’s a massive opportunity,” said Jeffrey Bussgang, a general partner at Cartera investor Flybridge Capital Partners. “Card-linked marketing benefits card issuers and consumers equally.”
These loyalty programs, which reward buyers on top of any airline miles or points their credit cards already offer, are often cheaper than coupon providers, too. LivingSocial and Groupon, the biggest provider of daily discounts, typically take a 30 percent cut of a transaction, versus 5 percent to 15 percent when a loyalty-linked card is used. The competition adds to concerns facing Groupon, whose shares have tumbled 51 percent since its initial public offering in November.
Some loyalty programs let consumers get rewards of their choice such as cash back, discounts or virtual currency for games like Zynga Inc. (ZNGA)’s FarmVille. American Express Co. (AXP)’s Zynga Serve Rewards card allows fans to amass the currency when they shop and use it for the online game.
Virtual currencies are seen as a way to attract people in their 20s, said Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite.
“Zynga has a large portion of players who are highly engaged in their games,” said David Messenger, executive vice president of online and mobile for American Express. “We can connect that online engagement with offline behavior.”
Plink, a Denver, Colorado-based startup, has designed a loyalty program that lets users earnFacebook Inc. (FB)’s virtual currency by dining at more than 25,000 restaurants such as Burger King Corp. and Outback Steakhouse. CardSpring allows clients to build their own Web-based and mobile applications for cards that can deliver coupons, digital receipts and loyalty programs.
Mirth, whose program is currently in trials in New York, rewards frequent customers with a 3 percent discount on purchases whenever they swipe their cards at participating restaurants.
“A lot of merchants have voiced their frustration with deep discounts and deals,” Jeremy Galen, Mirth’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. “With us, you don’t have to lower your price.”
On June 19, online-payments startup Square Inc. also introduced a loyalty program, letting small businesses offer rewards to customers who swipe credit cards through its handheld readers.
Increased competition may further damp analysts’ expectations for Groupon. The Chicago-based company in March reported a “material weakness” in its financial controls and said fourth-quarter results were worse than previously stated because of higher refunds to merchants.
A survey earlier this year by Susquehanna Financial Group and daily-deal aggregator Yipit showed that about half of businesses that had offered an online deal-of-the-day weren’t planning to do so again in the following six months. Merchants were concerned about a low rate of repeat business from new customers gained through such offers, the survey found.
“We continue to question whether Groupon can sustain its high growth and begin to generate sizable profits while scaling back marketing costs,” Edward Woo, an analyst at Ascendiant Capital Markets LLC, wrote in a May 15 note.
As a result, Groupon’s IPO has been among the worst market debuts for a Web company since the dot-com crash. Closely held LivingSocial, whose backers include Amazon.com Inc., Lightspeed Venture Partners and AOL Inc. founder Steve Case, doesn’t disclose sales or earnings figures.
Both LivingSocial and Groupon have started their own loyalty programs. LivingSocial introducedits first co-branded credit card with JPMorgan Chase & Co. in May. Cardholders can earn points that can be converted into DealBucks and used toward LivingSocial deals.
Groupon’s Rewards program, which gives consumers points for shopping at participating companies with a registered credit card, was rolled out nationwide at the end of the first quarter.
“We are signing up hundreds of merchants every week, and have hundreds of thousands of customers on this platform,” said Jay Hoffman, vice president and general manager of the Rewards program. “The adoption has been incredible.”
Still, some business owners view rival loyalty programs as a better investment than daily deals.
“With Groupon, it’s a one-time offer — it doesn’t last,” New York baker Avezzano said. Customer numbers at Eileen’s Special Cheesecake have jumped 18 percent since the shop started using Cartera’s loyalty technology a year ago, she said.
Article Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-26/groupon-challenged-by-startups-in-doling-loyalty-cards.html
No matter what type of business you’re in, you will always receive feedback from customers. Many businesses take the time to listen to customers and collect feedback, but not all know how to respond to that feedback and leverage it to better their business. It’s important to determine the proper protocol for responding to that feedback from customers.
With SMS marketing, the systems in place often allow businesses to receive text messages from customers with feedback. Customers will say exactly what is on their mind (not always good), and we must be monitoring these incoming comments for positive feedback! Customers may leave feedback on other channels as well, for example by calling, emailing, posting on social media, etc. Businesses should have a general understanding on how to manage their own PR and respond to and utilize those comments in the proper way.
I’ve outlined some strategies on how and when to respond to customer comments, as well as how we can leverage them:
What Messages to Respond to:
- Obviously businesses can’t respond to EVERYONE who leaves positive feedback, so there’s really no need to respond.
- Businesses can, however, show their appreciation for certain pieces of feedback (for example on social media) with a quick “Thanks for your feedback!”
- Save positive comments to share with prospects.
- Only respond if you can do it promptly–a delayed response may cause confusion. Responding to customer feedback 3 months later is pointless–the time has passed, the opportunity was missed.
- Always offer to point the customer to your business’ customer service phone number.
- In SMS marketing, if you receive an opt-out request:
- No need to respond–simply delete that customer from the list.
When Responding to Feedback
- Identify who you are.
- Try to avoid ongoing dialog back and forth.
- Address the need/question in one message, if possible.
Leveraging Positive Comments
- Demonstrate customer demand for rewards.
- Have a process in place to understand where customers could be finding problems in their dealings with your business.
- Use screen shots from time to time to provide an element of value in your emails to your prospects.
Obtaining feedback is one thing, but knowing what to do with it AFTER you receive it, is what will really affect your business’ long term success. By embracing your customer feedback, you can achieve transparency into customer buying behavior and gain insight into future buying behavior.
Case studies and testimonials help get your prospects to really empathize with what your business is doing and understand your services in a real world context.
Think of Apple’s commercials for the iPad. You don’t see them going into detail about gigabytes, chips and pixels. They strive to show you what the experience is like. And that’s what matters to your prospects—the experience they will get from your service.
Prospective customers don’t need to hear about the nuts and bolts, but rather how your product or service is going to benefit them. There’s no better way to do that than telling a story—and there’s no better way to tell your business’ story than having a customer talking about how your service benefited them.
If you had a 20 second video testimonial from a customer that you could play on your iPad when you walk into a sales meeting, do you think you’d close that deal? Absolutely.
You probably have tons of customers out there who speak very highly of you to others, so why not try and get that feedback in a written or video testimonial?
Well, the problem is no one likes to ask for testimonials. However, you’d be amazed to see how willing people are to help when you ask for it—and when you ask for it in the right way.
Here are some tips that will help you avoid some of the anxiety that comes along with asking for testimonials:
Ask for Feedback
Instead of asking for a “testimonial”, position it as asking for feedback on your business’ services.
Say, “Would you mind providing me with some feedback on your experience using our services? I’d love to hear what you have to say.”
Then, once they give you their feedback, you can ask them for permission to use their quote in a testimonial. For example you can say, “That’s great! Do you mind if I quote you on our website?” or “Do you mind if I forward your feedback to our prospects?”
It’s less invasive and aggressive than asking someone for a testimonial. Plus, leveraging the positive feedback from customers should give you a huge confidence boost when you walk into a business and try to close a deal.
It’s Not THAT You Ask, It’s HOW You Ask
When you ask for a testimonial, ask the right questions in order to elicit the response you want.
Ask questions like, “How have our services changed the way you engage with your customers?” or “What would you tell a friend who was thinking in investing in our services?”
Prompt the customer to say exactly what a prospect would want to hear.
Ask for Permission
Permission is key. Just because someone gives you positive feedback does not mean you have permission to use it in any way you want. You never want to get into a situation where your customers find out you’ve been quoting them on your website or in published documents without their consent.
You probably know the quote, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” Well, that isn’t necessarily true in this circumstance. If for some reason the person doesn’t like the way you phrased something or thinks you took something they said out of context, that will directly affect your credibility to that person.
You don’t want to have to ask for forgiveness of a customer. By the time you do, it may already be too late.
Don’t Be Afraid to Rewrite
Sometimes customers may submit written testimonials that need a little bit of tweaking. There may be grammar issues, awkward wording or bad punctuation. You certainly don’t want to publish a less-than-perfect testimonial because it will make both you and the customer look bad.
Feel free to rewrite testimonials appropriately using similar language and wording, but make sure not to take anything the customer said out of context.
Also, make sure to get the go-ahead from the customer on the rewrite. Just let them know you cleaned up the quote they sent you and have them approve it before you publish or send it anywhere.
Give Back When You Receive
When someone gives you something like a great testimonial, find a way to give back to them.
If your customer is a business—go on their Yelp Page and write a review about them.
Whatever you do, make it personal and make it from you.
Best Buy Co. Inc. has found its more valuable customers are ones who don’t just visit the e-commerce site or the bricks-and-mortar store. They also shop using their smartphones and tablets.
How valuable are these customers? The multichannel Best Buy consumer who uses a mobile device makes 15% more e-commerce purchases than the non-mobile consumer, said Chris Moroz, Best Buy associate manager for digital analytics. And, for in-store purchases, the mobile Best Buy consumer is 25% more valuable.
Speaking at the Adobe Digital Summit 2012 in Salt Lake City, Moroz said Best Buy calculated these figures by measuring three sets of data. One was connecting the BestBuy.com visitor data to its database of registered customers. Another was the result of surveys sent to e-commerce visitors who filled their shopping carts, but abandoned the sale. The third was a survey at the point of sale about the consumer’s shopping experience. The data then was screened through digital analytics software from Adobe Systems Inc.
“We found that on any given day a BestBuy.com visitor is more likely to purchase in-store,” Moroz said. Of consumers using a mobile device to visit Best Buy’s m-commerce site, one-fourth were found to make an in-store purchase within two weeks of their visit, he said.
Best Buy, incidentally, fared best in a recent survey by market research firm ClickIQ of the behavior of consumers using smartphones in stores.
To find out what happened after the in-store research was complete, survey respondents were asked to state where they eventually purchased the product they were researching. Best Buy did the best job of retaining the sale. 35% of those that researched at Best Buy ended up purchasing at the Best Buy store with another 14% purchasing at BestBuy.com. However, 21% purchased the product from Amazon.com. The rest did not purchase.
At the conference, Moroz said the next step for Best Buy is to automate much of the data collection process and to get more data about how consumers use Best Buy’s smartphone apps. “The mobile-savvy customer needs to be heard,” he said.
Lynn Lanphier, director, digital analytics, Best Buy Co. Inc., will speak this June at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago in a session titled “The new age of analytics: Creating a data strategy that leads to increased sales.” And learn more about the Mobile Workshop at IRCE 2012.
Research shows that shoppers are mobile–this article featured on eMarketer explains how consumers are turning to mobile to do product research before purchasing items in-store.
While consumer usage of smartphone and tablet devices for shopping purposes is on the rise, the devices’ place in the purchase path is varied. According to several pieces of research by Google, ForeSee Results and Nielsen, shoppers may start in the mobile channel for product research but then purchase in-store. They also may use mobile for product research on the go, then later purchase online on a PC or tablet.
Nielsen’s Q3–Q4 2011 “US Digital Consumer Report” indicates that 29% of smartphone owners use their phone for shopping-related activities. The top mobile shopping activities include in-store price comparisons (38%), browsing products through the mobile web or apps (38%), and reading online product reviews (32%).
A 2011 post-holiday shopping study by Google and Ipsos OTX also depicts consumers using their smartphones at many different points in the purchase path. For instance, 46% of smartphone users who used their mobile device for holiday shopping said they researched an item on their smartphone then went to a store to make their purchase. And 37% said they researched an item on their smartphone then made their purchase online on a computer. Holiday shopping data indicates that no matter the purchase channel, mobile devices are likely to play a role in a mobile user’s purchase process.
The Google study also shows that 41% of smartphone users researched with their mobile device and went on to actually purchase on the smartphone. That data point is higher than in some other mobile commerce studies. For example, a study released in January 2012 by customer experience management firm ForeSee indicates that during the 2011 holiday season only 15% of online shoppers used their phones to make purchases. The phone was most commonly used as a research and price comparison tool. However, Google/Ipsos OTX studied only smartphone owners while ForeSee looked at online shoppers as a whole, a group that includes many feature phone owners as well.
Whether a consumer makes a purchase via mobile or elsewhere, Google’s industry director for retail, Todd Pollak, told eMarketer that retailers need to improve the way they connect the mobile experience with the in-store or web-based shopping experience.
“You would think retailers would be hugely invested in ensuring you’d have an optimized experience on the mobile device, as well as trying to understand how people use it,” he said. “But consumers are way ahead of retailers in terms of their investment in mobile and how that plays into the purchase process.”
Although the path to purchase may appear unclear as consumers conduct the shopping process across multiple channels, Pollak encouraged mobile marketers to think about factors such as a consumer’s distance from a store and the days and times when mobile usage spikes. For example, tablet usage peaks during after-work hours and smartphone usage spikes during weekend days. Connecting and strategizing based on those statistics will help mobile marketers provide more targeted and personalized campaigns akin to the marketing experiences consumers are accustomed to on the web.