Customer Loyalty: The Lost World

Customer loyalty isn’t lost, but it has diversified. In a world where your competitors are only a click away, customer loyalty is really dynamic marketing. Today’s customers have access to an endless amount of information about your business. The question is: Are they willing to stop searching and stay with companies who go above and beyond to create a lasting customer experience?

According to Interline’s “Have you spiffed lately?” blog, the answer is YES! In essence, it affirms that spiffs can help products rise to the top and can prevent such competitive situations.

Consider Starbucks®. Besides a coffee fix, customers often return to earn stars with their purchases, with opportunities to double their rewards certain days of the month and graduate to tiers of loyalty. All you need is a Starbucks gift card or a smartphone. This rewards program also helps Starbucks get to know their customers better by storing all their order and payment information in the app—they personalize the experience and tailor it to their customer (isn’t it nice to never have your name misspelled on your Starbucks cup again?). The coffee as well as the personalized experience keeps them coming back.

Can your B2B business create the same effect in this world where customers have more access and have more options than ever before? Loyalty or spiff programs can be an effective way to encourage repeat purchasers and start fostering customer loyalty. According to Access, a surprising 50% of Americans say their loyalty depends on the brand or product/service. And over time the loyal customer will spend 67% more than new customers. So, make it worth their while to stick around.

Take the steps needed to optimize product loyalty programs for desired outcomes. Our “Optimizing Spiff Programs” blog points out that the program should be built to have immediacy (reward needs to follow quickly) and little administrative burden, and presents some best practices in SPIFF program management.

Building customer loyalty isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Winning back lost customers, keeping customers loyal and helping to impact future spending decisions are all strong factors in why loyalty programs are influential to customers… and important for businesses to have. It is not a lost concept, nor is it likely to disappear anytime soon.

MarketNet can help identify the existing strengths of your business, as well as identifying the existing weaknesses, and help you identify a loyalty program that may be right for you. Find out more, call us at 847.358.6884. For additional references, here are some blogs on spiffs that you might be interested in reading:

  • The Human Side of the Spiff” discusses offers a counter point to a recent major media outlet guest editorial entitled “Have spiffs run their course?” It was written by Jeff MacDowell, the director of the Luxury Products Group, LLC (LPG). He argued that if you are selling luxury products, you are naturally going to be anti-spiff. His point of view misleads the reader to a dangerous, incorrect belief: spiffs should be eliminated.
  • Cash Isn’t King…Yea Right” offers you a counterpoint to Leo Jakobson’s article, which presented results of a “major new study” that said “four-fifths of program participants actually would prefer non-cash awards as part of a ’Total Award Experience.’” It brings in MarketNet’s research to demonstrate the viability and sustainability of case as an incentive.

Optimizing Spiff Programs

One of MarketNet’s primary services is management of product SPIFF programs. There is much debate on whether SPIFFs actually work, as demonstrated in Interline’s The Human Side of Spiff blog. The underlying fact is that “a SPIFF run properly is one of the most effective branding tools a manufacturer has available in his marketing arsenal.” The other side, of course, is if utilized incorrectly, SPIFF programs may fall short of their intended purpose.

Whatever your thoughts on SPIFFs, in order to optimize product SPIFF programs for desired outcomes, the program should be built to have immediacy (reward needs to follow quickly) and little administrative burden. This is where MarketNet excels.

It’s critical that a SPIFF program be effectively set up and administered.  Marketnet expertly takes on the burden, and based on our success with some of the strongest kitchen and bath manufacturing brands, we have found the following best practices in SPIFF program management:

  • Integrate the SPIFF program into your brand’s overall marketing activities and funds
  • Clear upfront program rules
  • Have SPIFF reporting available to the salesperson on a real-time basis, in an easy to use format. 
  • Instate an interactive information and communications system
  • Enable individualized communication preferences
  • Establish SPIFF fraud prevention mechanisms
  • Provide fast and accurate claim review
  • Provide fast SPIFF payment turnaround time
  • Friendly, experienced, and helpful humans

Find out how MarketNet can help make your SPIFF the best redemption system to use to influence or your drive up sales by contacting us at: 847.358.6884.

WHERE DO SALES LEAD…LEAD?

69146It seems more and more companies spend a fortune setting up booth displays, calculating salary and travel expenses and forget the one thing they came for…their ROI…sales leads. Most sales leads are forgotten, delegated to a clerk or an outside dial-by-number service or are put on the back burner for months. Follow ups are not recorded and the sales leads eventually go to Ethernet heaven.

Recently, sales leads were followed up from an early spring electronic show in early summer. The number of projects and interest indicated in the calls were still valid and growing. Projects that were live at the show were still live or being replaced by other projects.

Most people won’t leave their information at a trade show unless there is at least a vague interest…they are in the marketplace or have contacts with someone who is. There are many other uses for sales leads and easily put into place with a professional staff to get the most ROI for your trade show dollar. Sales leads can and do lead to sales!

How to Generate Greater Buzz with Social Media

As a marketing company, one question we hear frequently from business owners trying to get up to speed on social media is: Which social media platform is best for my business?

 

Over the past few years alone, the number of online platforms and the opportunities to share content and branding have increased tremendously. Now it seems that everyone is on social media (even if the use of social media is still a relatively new concept in the business world). You may be inundated with competitors’ Tweets, posts, or online ads and wonder how your business can possibly carve out a space in this digital deluge.

 

Information is not only constant, but it takes many varying forms. On top of paid advertisements (such as Google AdWords, Yahoo, and Bing), there are Tweets, Facebooks Posts, Pins, infographics, photo galleries, contests…so many forms of content to choose from.

 

In order to determine “which social media platform is best for my business,” first decide what you want out of social media. Do you want a fast, easy way of raising brand awareness? Do you want to share daily business updates and developments? Do you want to display beautiful, high-resolution photos of your products?

 

Though there are similarities between social media platforms, each platform fills a different niche and allows you to produce a slightly different type of content. With your products and services in mind, ask yourself if content created on the following platforms would be useful:

 

  1. A) Twitter: With a 140-character limit, Twitter is not the medium for long, detailed messages. Twitter is ideal if you want to post quick daily updates, raising awareness about your company and brand without dedicating too much time. It is also useful for engaging with others in your industry.
  2. B) Facebook: Facebook does not share Twitter’s 140-character limit, so slightly longer posts are acceptable. Adding photos to a more detailed description is a good strategy if you want to promote a new product, or document a charity activity or challenge your employees took part in.
  3. C) Pinterest: There’s no denying it: online audiences love pictures. If you have high-quality images of your products or designs, Pinterest might be the perfect medium for sharing them.
  4. D) Houzz: If you sell home-related products, or are a designer, it’s time to seriously consider signing up for Houzz. With a largely upscale audience, Houzz is a great way to display (and sell!) furniture, lighting, and home improvement solutions.
  5. E) All of the above…?

If you answered E, you’re right…and you’re wrong!

In addition to finding the platforms that work best for you, one way to maximize social media exposure is to cross-pollinate between platforms. Tweet what you Pin, Pin what you post, post about what you show on Houzz, and so on. This is an easy way to promote content you have created on one platform on another platform, and to reach a wider audience.

 

So why are you also wrong if you answered E?

1)      A strategy that works for one business may not be ideal for another. For example, Pinterest might be a better medium for designers and product-based businesses than service businesses.

2)      You could easily spread yourself too thin if you try them all at once. You can’t spend all of your time on social media– as addictive as it is – you have a business to run!

3)      Focusing only on today’s social media sweethearts, e.g. Pinterest, may take your eye off up-and-coming platforms that could be critical to your business in the future.

 

Don’t hesitate – sign up for an account on the social media platform of your choice and start experimenting! You will find that as you become more comfortable Tweeting, posting, or pinning, you will naturally have new, engaging ideas for content.

How to Survive When the Internet is ‘Killing the Expert’

MAI_Blog_Internet

Websites, online forums and social media are changing how people identify the individuals they consider to be experts in their field. In a time when anyone can blog, Tweet or post on any topic they want, it’s possible for just about anyone to emerge as the supposed ‘expert’ on just about anything — at least that is the perception for many.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an expert as someone “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” Nowhere in this definition does it say that blogging, Tweeting or posting makes you the expert. But you might not be able to tell this based on what you read in certain forums.

 

Cassie Boom laments in an article in PR Daily: “The Internet is killing the ‘expert.’ Anyone with an Internet connection can declare themselves an expert.”

 

So when you are the real expert — someone who is trained and experienced in your chosen field — how do you overcome this? You have to provide more than just information:

  • Encourage your customers to show you information they find on websites and social media sites. You can dissect the information with them, which will demonstrate how you are the true expert.  Embrace your customer and his knowledge. Whether good or bad, you create more of a relationship to discuss a topic rather than dismiss it.
  • Emphasize your service, e.g. having a live person who can talk about information and why it’s good or bad.
  •  Offer personal attention. Respond individually to customer inquiries over the phone, or in your blog comments section. Devoting time to individual customers shows that you are engaged and up-to-date with new developments and trends in the industry.
  •  Customize ideas to fit their needs instead of taking the cookie-cutter Internet approach. Don’t assume that your online audience is homogenous. Customize your ideas to fit the needs of different customer segments. More targeted advice shows that you have a specific group’s interests in mind.

 

Learn more about how to retain and gain customers through Interline Creative Group’s “Staying in Front of Your Customers” free webinar series. Visit www.interlinegroup.com/events for a schedule and to reserve your space.

How to Launch a New Product in Eight Steps

It’s an age-old question: How do you get a new product to the person who needs it most? When using distributor channels it is imperative to get the product launch started on the right foot. With some internal awareness and a sound strategy, new product launches should have you shooting for the stars.

For example, as a distributor, manufacturers depend on you to move their new product through the pipeline.  The manufacturer will supply all sorts of help: counter cards, inventory consideration, special spiffs, and direct mailers.  All you have to do is sit back and watch the product launch into the sales stratosphere.  Right?

Wrong!

Merely surviving a new product launch isn’t going to bring the expected results that surround new merchandise.

One reason product introductions often don’t meet manufacturer and distributor expectations is because distributors  aren’t taught how to make the new product their own and see how it can boost their return on investment or ROI.

As much as manufacturers put into research and development, and as diligent as manufacturers are in uncovering New-Product-Launchproduct characteristics that meet customer’s needs, the distributor makes or breaks a new product introduction.  Why?  It is the distributor that controls the customer.

More than the manufacturer or representative, distributors control customer interaction and the ultimate sale.  Consequently, more than anyone else, the distributor must develop a strategy to introduce new products that transcends what the manufacturer will do.  Without this strategy, the manufacturer’s work around the introduction can never be as effective as it could be.

Jim Nowakowski, President of Interline Creative Group, Inc., a business-to-business marketing firm in the Chicagoland area, gives eight steps for distributors to be successful when it comes to a strategy for launching a new product.

  • Meet with the manufacturers’ representative and invite them to conduct a training session at your facility.
  • Look for immediate cross-sell opportunities.
  • Announce the products to your customers.
  • Mail the same announcement again.
  • Track every customer who purchases the new product.
  • Review the customers who purchased the product and find the common denominator.
  • Take the common thread and start weaving your plan.
  • Write a proposal for the manufacturer outlining objectives for the marketing plan, your expected results, and the expected participation from the manufacturer.

The next time a product launch comes along don’t just sit waiting for sales to come to you.  Be your own mission control and take a proactive role in getting that product to market.  With a firm structure in place you’ll be rewarded with additional revenue and sales opportunities, through your interaction with the manufacturer, end user, and customer, as well as the means to take future product launches to infinity and beyond.

If you want this entire article or are launching a new product soon and need additional help, call Jim Nowakowski at 847-358-4848 to discuss your problem at a free, no-obligation consultation.  For more information on Interline Creative Group, go to www.interlinegroup.com

Excerpts or this article taken from “How To Launch New Products,” Electrical Wholesaling magazine, Jim Nowakowski, December 2003.

Staying In Touch With Your Data

During flu season, the warnings are clear – don’t touch anything due to risk of infection.  But when it comes to your information, you risk everything if you don’t learn to touch your data!  Staying in touch with your data will result in amazing discoveries, including accountability.  Here are a few case studies to prove our point.

Our company once received a desperate call from a publisher’s representative in regards to a magazine we were working for. “The advertiser threatened to pull the schedule. There aren’t enough inquiries.  What can you do to help?” the rep exclaimed.

We examined the ads that were running. The product being advertised was an American With Disabilities Act product. We proceeded to obtain the leads that were generated and looked at them by running demographic profiling methods.

One of the inquiries came from a person with the title ADA Consultant. The company he worked for was one of the five Stay In Touch With Your Dataleading trucking companies in the US.  We touched further by calling the inquirer. It turns out this ADA Consultant was in charge of renovating every property owned by his employer to meet the standards set by ADA legislation.

We prepared a presentation centering on this individual (and a few other leads) that the sales rep then sent to the advertiser. The advertiser, which had not touched the data, phoned the rep within fifteen minutes and invited her to California to discuss next year’s schedule.

On a separate project, we studied five batches for five advertisers for one publisher (Confusing, right?  Stick with us, it’s worth it).  In the first batch, we found David E. David (name changed to protect the innocent). He listed himself as working for a state agency with the title of Administrator. We merged/purged that batch with the second batch and were surprised to find the same David. In fact, David turned up in all five batches!

Curious, we then interviewed the five advertisers to find out if they knew about David. Two of the five called David a Literature Collector because the lead reports they received said David circled more than ten numbers. These advertisers didn’t even fulfill David’s request for information. The other advertisers were unaware of David or any other of the names they had generated because they had no analytical system in place.

As it turns out, David WAS a literature collector. He collected for about ten departments for the state where he worked. He was a mechanical engineer with the responsibility for finding out “what’s new” and then sharing it with his fellow engineers. You couldn’t begin to sell in his state without passing through David first.

Studies have found that the more numbers an individual circles, the more likely he is to be a primary trigger puller in a buying situation. Instead of being dismissive, a little investigation into our data revealed David to be someone of great interest and potential.

Stay in touch with your data. Carefully reviewing your data often will keep you informed and aware of what your data has to offer.  Keep digging, you never know what remarkable rewards you might discover.

Three Steps Towards Successful Branding

There is a spectrum of opinions when it comes to “brand,” which leads to a lot of money being spent on what companies consider “branding.” Branding is mostly identified with a product, but is also tied to the value of an organization or service.

For example, cattle are literally branded with, their ranch symbol, which communicates the ranch’s identity and quality.  Companies are no different.  When managing brands, whether it is for product, company or service, companies build awareness and assurance that the products they carry offer quality and reliability through their “brand.”

Branding-SuccessYour brand is everything around your company.  This goes well beyond finding the right image or logo. It’s what’s behind the image that counts as well.  A brand is tangible, just like you.  Branding for a product is comparable to branding your service. You still need to convey your identity while establishing a presence in the consumer’s mind and attract and keep customers.

From an article published in ELECTRICAL WHOLESALING magazine called, Your Very Own Brand, here are three steps for successful branding:

Educate Your Customers

Much of the quality you provide for every transaction to your customers is hidden. Your job is to educate them.  Reveal your quality.  Do your customers know the quality of the products you sell?  Whatever you do to train them will pay off dividends in the long run.

For example, a gentleman walks into a rug store to buy a throw rug for the front door.  A man in a suit approaches him and begins to ‘educate’ the gentleman about all the different types of rugs. For twenty minutes the salesman had store employees pulling rugs off the racks and spreading them out on the floor for them to see and feel.  The salesman weaved stories of where the rugs were made and how they were made. “You don’t have to do that,” the gentleman urged.  “I am only looking for a throw rug.”   The salesman replied, “That’s ok.  It’s my pleasure.”

The salesman smiled when he was finished and the gentleman quietly deliberated.  He then bought a much larger rug than he intended.  The salesman’s education paid off, as he was selling by educating.

Look For Branding Opportunities Everywhere

There are opportunities to brand your business everywhere.  It’s not just about changing your logo. It’s about looking for opportunities to be of value; to showcase the quality of what you have to offer.

Here’s how one entrepreneur missed a valuable branding opportunity:

There was a coffee shop outside of the security area in an airport.  The owner of the coffee shop sat behind the counter watching the line move inch-by-inch.  He was disappointed that no one would leave the 40-60 minute line to purchase coffee because they did not want to lose their place.  He missed a golden opportunity!

Bring the product to them.  Do you think people would have purchased coffee and paid a premium to have the coffee delivered to them in the line?  Exactly.  The coffee shop owner sat blaming security for his lost business instead of identifying the opportunity right in front of him.

Use Project Photos and Case Histories

Persuade customers to do business with you by showing them what you can do.  Your customers want to know one thing: will they be happy doing business with you?  Prove it by exhibiting photos and stories of successful projects to both those you know and first time customers.  By being able to visualize and identify with work your company has completed, clients will be more apt to trust in what you can do.

With every transaction or correspondance, you create your company’s brand.  You either reinforce your brand and reputation or you do harm to it.  You must brand yourself everyday by who you are and what you offer.  It’s not just about your logo. Your brand is about what’s behind that image and how others perceive you, your value, and the quality of what you do.

Hitting the Affluent Market Target via Research Data

Target-Affluent

Today is the day you should be thinking about your marketing. Actually, you should be thinking about marketing every day. Marketing works best if you have a plan and a target and then every piece will fit together, if you have the right knowledge. The way to get the knowledge needed to run a successful marketing program is through research.

For example, in order to reach the affluent customer the MarketNet team worked with the American Affluent Research Center (AARC), a private research organization, as a resource to understand the affluent customer. It may be a good fit for your company, especially if you are targeting affluent consumers.

In working with the AARC, MarketNet was able to learn more about that target demographic of customers, which enabled us to hit the target and reach our goals in the affluent market. We can, therefore, focus our energy in a certain direction — saving time and money to get positive results, gain market share — and continue to build our business.

This is true with any target. You need to know who is buying your product and any important information about them. If you are marketing to the affluent market, you can call us for insights from the Affluent Market Tracking Study from the AARC!

“AARC’s survey is of particular interest to the kitchen and bath marketplace as it contains a series of questions to identify which segments of the affluent market are planning to spend money remodeling in the next 24 months, how much they might spend, and where they would make most of their purchases,” says Jim Nowakowski, President of MarketNet, Division of Interline Creative Group, Inc. “Research is imperative when constructing your marketing plan, especially if your business is struggling to recover in this economy. Too many times marketing and research is dismissed, and that is detrimental to any business.”

The survey is a bi-annual survey of the wealthiest 10% of U.S. households published by AARC. The survey focuses on the 11.4 million households, as determined by The Federal Reserve Board, based on net worth.

“AARC’s surveys are conducted by direct mail on representative samples drawn at random of the precisely defined population of affluent households,” says Ron Kurtz, President of AARC. “It is consistent with the research of the Federal Reserve Board. The sample, therefore, is significantly different from other affluent and luxury market research, which is based on online surveys of panels of people who are compensated for participating in regular and frequent surveys.”

For more information on AARC go to: http://affluenceresearch.org/. For more information on how MarketNet can help your business market profitably to affluent consumers, contact us today!

Critical Tools for Staying in Front of Your Customers

Stay-In-Front-Phone

Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Staying in front of your customers by capturing their interest and keeping them engaged should be at the top of your list. The path to achieving this, however, is often obscured.

Some studies have found that it costs four times as much to find new customers than it does to retain existing customers!

Your competition is prospecting today – sending information to your clients to try to potentially lure them away from you. In fact, product- or service-oriented strategies no longer provide meaningful or sustainable differentiation from competition – you need more. If you aren’t keeping in front of your customers, how can you expect to compete?

There must be more, right? Perhaps there is a secret formula to retaining your customers and exceeding their expectations with responsive, agile, and one-of-a-kind service? Actually, there are successful ways to differentiate your business despite ongoing digital disruption. Tools are available to keep businesses relevant and valuable in relation to servicing customers. When armed with tactics to stay in front, knowing what sets you apart is critical.

If you would like more tips on how to retain your customers and why it is so important, review the webinar “Staying in Front of Your Customers within 667 Exabytes” that is sponsored by Interline Creative Group. Jim Nowakowski, President of Interline, offers straightforward advice on achieving personal contact with customers that will help your business stand out from the crowd. You can preview his session, which includes a two-minute clip, on the Interline website[http://www.interlinegroup.com/live-events/staying-in-front-of-your-customers-within-667-exabytes/].

The webinar is also registered with the AIA/CES for continuing professional education. Check back often at www.interlinegroup.com/ to see when the next webinar will take place. Or, if you prefer, contact Interline directly and our professionals will help you arrange for a private online session geared toward your company. Special presentations of Staying in Front of Your Customers can be arranged for groups by calling 847-358-4848.

Interline Creative Group is a Registered Provider with The American Institute of Architects Continuing Education Systems. Credit earned on completion of this program will be reported to CES records for AIA members. Certificates of Completion for non-AIA members are available on request.