Marketing Your Great Customer Service

aidaBack in the day, a short 8 or so years ago, the traditional marketing model practiced by agencies was called The AIDA Model: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. Clean, simple, a clear-cut path to your customer. Sounds a bit Mad Men-ish! “If they know about it, they’ll want it and sales will skyrocket!”  All that has changed, and with few exceptions, the big game changer has been the internet.

 

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Today it doesn’t matter whether you sell directly to customers online or use your website as a support tool for your brick and mortar business, the typical customer for just about all goods and services goes through a very different shopping/decision making cycle.  Online research dominates.

Consider your own methods of discovery. Does a commercial or print ad make you aware of and interested in an item enough to drive you to commit to a purchase? More likely, ads support a decision you are in the process of making or help create name or brand recognition. Don’t get me wrong, they still hold an important place in a multi-channel marketing plan as one element in a well-planned campaign.

Most customers go online to research products and services, compare pricing, read reviews and find locations. You “Google” things, places, services and check out websites and online reviews. How can your business stand out in the the mass of websites? (If offering the lowest price is the only tool you are using, you may want to rethink that. Sooner or later, someone will beat your price and then you have nothing.)

Think about offering great customer service, both in-person and online. A well-developed strategy to be the best at what you do can’t be beat, ever. And let’s face it, most companies don’t even play in that arena.

Then build a marketing campaign focused around the quality service you offer.  Online, in-person, using any media you choose – you’ll stand out every time.

Hackers Focus on WordPress

imagesYou may have noticed some recent articles in the news regarding large brute force attacks directed at WordPress and Joomla based web sites. If your site is hosted with Trusty & Company Hosting and has a WordPress based blog or CMS and you are concerned about its security, put your mind at ease…we have it covered.

Although it is impossible for us, or any other web hosting service, to guarantee 100% that a site cannot be hacked we’ve taken some extra steps to insure that sites hosted on our server are as bullet proof as possible.

The current round of attacks are directed toward a WordPress installation’s admin account. That is, a user account on the blog or CMS that has the username ‘admin’. We’ve been aware that this is a potential weak spot since the early versions of WordPress so we never create admin accounts for any of the sites we develop. According to Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, this step alone will put you “ahead of 99% of sites out there and you will probably never have a problem.”

A ‘brute force attack’ means that hackers are trying to overpower a web site by shear number of hits/attempts. The network of bots supposedly consists of over 90,000 IP addresses. If technology permitted they could attempt access from a different IP every second for over 24 hours without using the same IP twice. There’s little that can be done against those odds, but to further increase overall security of Trusty & Company hosted WordPress sites and blogs we are in the process of installing limited login attempt filtering to all WordPress installs at no charge to our clients whether they have a Web Maintenance Plan with us or not. This means that anyone trying to access a site will have limited attempts to successfully login. If a correct ID and password combination is not submitted in three attempts the user will be locked out of any future login attempts for 30 minutes. A reasonable amount of time, if it’s an honest mistake, to get the correct access information. Additionally, if repeated login attempts result in 3 lockouts within 12 hours any future attempts from that IP address will be blocked for 48 hours. Our experience has shown that after repeated 48 hour lockouts the attacks will eventually cease.

So what should you do? If we host your site and you do not currently have a Web Maintenance Plan with us, we encourage you to signup now. Hackers are not going to stop hacking, and we won’t stop protecting your site. Because of the significant time required to update security on a regular basis, we just won’t be able to do that for clients who do not have a Web Maintenance Plan. Most sites require the minimum plan, which is very affordable. And as always, call or email us with any questions or concerns you may have.

Building a Marketing Strategy: Eight Steps to Developing Your Plan

Many owners and leaders of small and mid-size businesses decide on the marketing tactic they want to pursue as a reaction to a specific incident. Rather than taking the time to develop a Marketing Plan specific to their company objectives, they use quick fix solutions to address broader issues. Does this sound like you?

  • Your new business needs a logo. Get a logo.
  • Sales are down. Run an ad.
  • New store or office opening. Send out a direct mail piece.
  • Holidays are coming. Send holiday greeting cards.

While all of those tactics may be good ideas, they aren’t part of a cohesive plan to grow and develop your customer base and maximize their contribution to your business results. By themselves they may be mildly effective and yield short-term results, but no single tactic will sustain your brand.

A better way to do grow your business is to develop an integrated brand development and marketing plan. Not as intimidating as it sounds, a full brand and marketing strategy is a road map that keeps you on track and focused on goals, budget and results. Here are the eight steps we use to build a marketing strategy.

What are your goals and objectives? List all quantifiable goals such as sales increases, customer survey results and P&L standards as well as softer objectives like skills training for employees and community service.

 Develop your message . Your company goals and objective should lead you to your message. The what, why, where, when that is important to customers. Because this is the key to branding your business you may want to bring a marketing expert in to work with your team on the focus points and how to craft a succinct, viable message that will affect a positive response from your audience.

 Determine your Marketing budget. It is so important that you have an idea of what you can afford before you begin planning a strategy. Many companies budget based on what they spent last year, but that isn’t always valid. Some businesses use a percent of sales as the benchmark, researching their industry standards as a reference. Whichever method you use, be sure to consider factors like new product launches and expansion plans when setting your budget.

 Which customer group impacts each goal? Look at both internal and external customers to better understand where your marketing needs are greatest and identify target customer groups. Plan to use every customer interaction to your advantage. Begin to attach volume numbers to each goal.

How can you reach your target customers? Take time to analyze your target customers’ habits to better understand how they may best receive information. There are always multiple ways to reach them based on your budget. Review all selling methods used by your company as well as throughout your industry. Direct selling and indirect selling will require different support mechanisms to grow sales.

 Analyze your options.  Multi-channel marketing is nearly limitless. Even businesses on a strict budget can diversify their approach to capture a broader audience. A marketing professional should be able to provide options, costs, projected return and will work with you to validate results.

Quantify your results.  Put numbers to every project and evaluate success against your goals and objectives. Not all of your marketing efforts will be on target, but as you progress through your plans you will begin to better understand customer preferences and how to more effectively drive results.

Course correct…and keep going! Do not stop marketing efforts because of a failed project. Tear it apart, analyze why it failed and move on. One of the most damaging mistakes small and mid-size companies make is to stop advertising or marketing when business is tough. That is when you need marketing clarity and focus the most. Revise your budget based on performance and demand creative, cost effective solutions from your marketing team. Stay in the game—you can’t win if you don’t play! The amount of effort you and your team put into building and supporting a marketing strategy is always reflected in your company performance.

Take the time to create a brand message worth sending and put it out there as often as you can. Marketing should be a vibrant and exciting part of the company strategic plan, part of the face and the voice of any organization. Make every impression a good one.

5 Factors To Consider When Planning a Web Site

Companies who launched websites several years ago may be considering a website update or even a total re-design. Before you begin a website design or redesign consider these 5 factors and talk through all points with your web designer.

1.  What are the goals & objective for your site?

  • How will you measure success – by traffic or leads or contacts or sales?
  • Do you want them to take immediate action…call or email or purchase?
  • How important are search engine results for your company?

2.  About Content

  • How does your site fit into your marketing strategy?
  • Who will be responsible for developing the content?  Web rich content is critical for SEO.
  • Will there be updated information added on a regular and timely basis and who will handle that?

3.  About Reader

  • Who is the target audience and what are their expectations from a site in your industry?
  • What do you want them to do when they visit your site?
  • Do you expect repeat traffic from customers and readers?

4.  About Your Team

  • How many people will have input into the design and development and who is the final decision maker?
  • Who will be the project manager or go-to person now and later?
  • Who handles your IT functions and are they readily available?

5.  About The Investment

  • What is your budget for design and development?
  • How about maintenance, updates and SEO?
  • How much time do you want to invest in developing the site?

Establishing expectations and guidelines early in the process can help every project succeed. Take the time to plan and use the expertise of your designer to ensure a great outcome.