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ChiselLike so many of us living in drought-ridden Southern California, my wife and I are looking to modify our home landscaping to soak up less water.  Some of my neighbors have simply ripped out their entire lawns and replaced them with gravel rock and cactus. That’s the cheap way out and it doesn’t beautify their homes one bit. Wanting to take a more aesthetic path, we called in two different landscape companies to quote on how they’d create a drought-resistant yard that still complements our house and neighborhood.

I had no idea what a good job might cost so we simply asked each company what they would do and what they’d charge for doing it.

The first quote came in from a company that did beautiful work and the owner really “got” what we wanted.  His quote was seventeen grand!  Eeyikes!  The second company came in at only eleven thousand, much more palatable, but I wasn’t as convinced about the artistry of their work.  I asked the first company how they could bring down their bid and the contractor said he could take this out and that out and it would reduce the bottom line some, but now I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

Given the initial six thousand dollar spread, my wife said it was a no-brainer: we should accept the lower bid…and I almost agreed.  Then it hit me.  I called up the first company again, the one I really wanted, and this time asked rather than bring down the initial bid, what could they do if I said create something wonderful for eleven thousand dollars?  This approach surprised the landscaper and he loved the challenge.  And needless to say, he came back with an entirely different design that was also wonderful while at the same time met our budget.

I realized that this is what happens to our agency all the time.  We get approached by a prospective client and are asked what it costs to work with us and develop a year’s marketing program.  If the prospective client hasn’t provided us a budget to start with, which is often the case, the moment we throw any number at them, they get sticker shock and that’s the end of the conversation.  What a shame. What usually happens after that is the company either takes some kind of budget approach and gets a poor outcome, or doesn’t make any change whatsoever and suffers all the more for it.

Why not do what I did with the landscapers?  Start by singling out the best talent possible and then, either on your own or together, arrive at a total budget that’s just below your pain threshold, one you can live with, and let the agency help you get the most bang for your buck.  Then you have the best of both worlds, the top talent and a budget to do the most effective job possible.

Taking the lowest bid or chiseling a good bid from the top only cuts down on possibilities.  Starting with a fixed amount and asking a supplier what’s the most you can get from it puts everybody in a creative mode, exactly where they all should be.

Whether you’re hiring a marketing agency, a freelance writer, a filmmaker or an engineering company, hiring based on talent, and budgeting based on your pain threshold (that only you alone can determine) will yield superior results.

In the meantime, I’m still praying for rain…

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

Lots of Likes SMWhen it comes to sharing on social media, there’s you and your network of friends and contacts. These are all the people that you’re connected with on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc.  And like you, these people have their network, in other words, your network’s network. The big secret of social media, not just for your personal brand but for your company is that it’s not about your network per se. It’s not even so much about reaching those in your network. It’s about reaching your network’s network.

So every message you put out there should be something that your network wants to forward. If your network doesn’t want to forward it along to their networks, then your brilliant post or exciting news dies with them. It’s like telling a room full of people you know something wonderful that you would hope they would tell others…but the word never gets out. On the other hand, if you put out content that’s surprising, that teaches, that adds to the conversation, that provokes thought, that taps into a bigger discussion, then people will forward it. In a sense, they reward you for being oh so clever and smart.

For example, I’m of that age where I’m taking more of an interest in insurance-related matters, so I’ve found myself going to New York Life’s Facebook page.  There they ask questions, have polls, allow you to fill in the blank on things that directly have to do with insurance; but many other times the content is peripheral – what do you want your legacy to be? How old is the oldest person you know and what makes them special? It’s stuff people comment on a lot. As you may know, what happens then on Facebook is that those comments show up on people’s individual pages as commenting about something on New York Life’s page. So it becomes viral… which is the art of reaching your network’s network.

So what kind of messages are likely to be forwarded, or maybe more importantly, what kind of messages are boring and least likely to be forwarded? Well, one kind is the “look at our facilities” update.  Or “here’s our new product.”  Sorry to be so cruel, but who the heck really cares but your own people?  It’s just you talking about you.  And isn’t that just the kind of guy you hate to talk to at a party?

Oh, and then there’s the type of messaging that you find all over LinkedIn and Twitter…the over-populating of meaningless updates and posts without cessation. One post or tweet after another to the point you get tired seeing this person’s face show up on your screen ever again! If the idea of social media marketing is to form relationships with people, then why would you want to undo what you’ve accomplished by over-marketing your company to the point where people say, “I’ve had enough. Buh-bye!”

So what kind of messages generate traffic for business and does get forwarded to your network’s network?  It turns out you already saw this in high school when a message of great personal value went out there and was forwarded. I’ll call this “My parents are out of town…bring your own beer” message. This type of update breaks through the rest of the “ho-hum” messages because it does two things: it produces a high emotional response and people like sharing practically useful content to help out their friends, as well as business customers or prospects.

 

Now I’m not a psychologist but I’ve found through personal experience that the likelihood of sharing content seems to hinge on things that produce an emotional response by means of wonder, joy, fear and anxiety, laughter, fear and surprise. I’m sure there are many other motivators but let’s just talk about these for a moment.

  • Wonder – If it’s something truly amazing, people can’t resist commenting on it and passing it along. This can be in the form of a photograph, a story, a real-life event, or a list of links to really great resources.
  • Joy – What makes people happy? There’s loads of things. It can be something funny, inspiring, or anything that’s enlightening and uplifting. It’s telling a story that people can connect with.
  • Fear and Anxiety – As people move toward “carrots,” they run from “sticks.” People react if they’re anxious or fearful. If you’re writing content that talks about potentially losing out on something, missing an opportunity, or heading in a wrong or even tragic direction, you’ll get attention. More than that, this kind of emotional content gets passed along.
  • Laughter – If you’re in the funeral business, you know the healing power of a good laugh. Humor has a long history of going viral. Step outside of the dark cloak and crack a grin.
  • Surprise – What surprises people? Anything that goes against their expectations. Things that astonish them as well as things that might shock them, from challenging assumptions or long-held ideas to great new ways to do things.


Just take a look at this wonderful, relevant and extremely viral video on YouTube that has garnered millions of hits.  If you’re a death care provider, there’s no reason this couldn’t fit in as a post on your Facebook page that would certainly get “clicked along” to others. That’s what I’m talking about. There’s lots of great content out there if you look.

As we know, the idea of social media is to create and strengthen relationships with people.  We do that by sharing information that they’d like to get, read and pass along to others. That doesn’t happen if what you have to say isn’t interesting and you won’t be interesting until you say and do things imaginatively, originally, freshly.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

 

Seven SinsNot too long ago, I was watching a series about the Seven Deadly Sins.  No, not Grumpy, Sleepy and Dopey…but Wrath, Pride, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Lust and Gluttony.  Things started churning in my mind and I wondered, what are the “Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing?”  Your choices are as good as mine, but   given what I continue to see taking place within marketing and marketing departments across all different industries, here’s my list.  It applies as much within the funeral industry as it does with food producers, medical product suppliers and consumer electronics manufacturers. Hopefully, you’re not committing more than a few, if any.  You decide.

Guessing

In the Dilbert cartoon series, Dilbert says that “marketing is just liquor and guessing.” Funny…but as we know, a bit simplistic. Yet, too many companies assume that there is absolutely no need to substantiate their beliefs about the marketplace, about what their prospects want, about why their customers are buying, about what people think of their brand, about most anything having to do with products, services and buyers.  Generally the thinking is that no one can know the marketplace as well as the company and the market will accept whatever you offer. Guess (pun intended) how that turned out for Kodak, Borders Books, TWA, and certainly some recognizable companies in the funeral industry!  Ask yourself, when was the last time your company committed the time and resources to do some marketing research…qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, etc.  And do it right.

Marketing by Committee (Indecisiveness)

I’m not sure why, but when it comes to marketing, everyone seems to have a say. Partners, staff, associates, spouses, and the janitor all want to give their two-cents. That makes as much sense as having an accounting committee to help figure out where the credits and debits are posted? Or an office supply committee to pick out the colors of pens you order? Committees, by nature, are full of compromises so solutions are usually watered down versions that will wind up doing little or nothing to accomplish your growth goals. Marketing by committee leads to lots of bad ideas and poorly thought-out plans. Instead of bright, bold strokes from the marketing brush, you get a sea of beige. And then it doesn’t work. Who would have thunk it! The solution is to decide on objectives and budget, and then let the most qualified team member (or members) write a marketing plan. Once the plan is approved, ONE person gets appointed within the organization to take on the role as “the decider.”  Empower him or her to make all the courageous decisions required to position your company to dominate your category. Many executives forget that great marketing is not about staff consensus. Great marketing is about what works.

Inconsistency

When different aspects of your marketing messages don’t reinforce each other, the inconsistencies alienate prospects and current customers. Inconsistent marketing distorts clear expectations, makes potential customers unsure of the characteristics of your service or products and creates unhappy customers who don’t get what they expect. These inconsistencies affect businesses by reducing both initial sales to consumers as well as diminish repeat sales from dissatisfied customers. We’ve seen companies change messages nearly with every ad, which together or individually have nothing in common with their website, Facebook page or literature.  Also, be consistent with your marketing plan. Don’t stop running an ad, for instance, just because the first insertion didn’t ring your phone off the hook. Give your campaign time to work, but you also need to know when a change in direction is a good idea. Remember, people are not paying that much attention to you, but when they do, it helps if the message you’re saying now is similar to the message that they heard the last time.

Complacency

There is hardly a more insidious demon than the dreaded “status-quo.” It generally takes the form of “whatever we did last year is good enough.” Except, things change. Your competitors are changing things up. Your customer’s needs are changing. The marketplace is changing.  Here are few things to avoid the sin of complacency: Keep looking in your rearview mirror to see what your competitors are doing. Listen to new ideas from customers, staff members, and from whatever books or magazines you read, as the next big idea may not come out of your own mouth. Strive to upset your competitors by beating them to the punch, always moving ahead to be a “New and Improved” version of whatever you are today.

ADHD

Okay, so after reading articles by “experts” about how you should have a customer engagement program in place (so you can be more “customer-centric”), you’ve put your company on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Heck, you’re even ready to go when the next big social media platform launches. You’ve got your product literature online, and your Web site has a blog and videos. Not to mention all the offline activities ranging from special events to advertising to PR, etc.  You’re like the guy on the old Ed Sullivan Show, spinning his plates on sticks and running from one to the other as each begins to wobble.  Whoa, slow down there cowboy, focus, and be sure that you really need all those marketing activities.  And that each has earned its rightful place in a well thought-out strategy.  Better to do one or two things right than lots of stuff without cause, thought, or management.

Narcissism

From so much marketing activity that I see, especially in the deathcare business, the memo has not reached the desk of many marketers that “It’s not about what your company wants to say but rather about what the customer wants to hear.” We call that Inside-Out thinking, looking at the world from your own perspective rather than the customers’.  What has made companies like Nike, Apple, Amazon and Southwest Airlines great is they’re always looking at things from the buyers’ perspectives –what we call Outside-In thinking. Customers only consider “what’s in it for me.”  When all you do is list your company’s features, you’re talking to yourself about yourself; when you present customer-oriented benefits, you’re tuning in on the buyers’ brainwaves. So in short, it’s not about you.

Confusion

Maybe, just maybe, the deadliest marketing sin of all is not having one over-arching marketing strategy – and insuring its implementation through all your tactics.  Executing marketing tactics without having a well-developed integrated strategy is like leaving your roadmap or GPS at home and blithely driving off without considering if you’ve chosen the right road. So if you wouldn’t haphazardly set off on an important trip in your car, why let it happen with regard to your company’s marketing activities. It’s easy to start with the “how” but if you haven’t identified the “what,” you may find yourself spending a lot of time executing tactics that don’t take you where you want to go.  In so doing, you’ll be wasting time, resources and losing out on sales-producing opportunities. What is needed is one single integrated strategy that informs all your delivery platforms whether online or offline, print, broadcast, or social. That way, at every point in your attack plan, at every customer touchpoint, you’re moving the ball forward, not sideways or even backward.

Yes, there are more Deadly Sins that I might have mentioned, such as Fear (of exploring different paths), Overconfidence (trying to be a “do-it-yourselfer” when it’s better to rely on experts), Ignorance (of not measuring or knowing the results of your activities), or Miserliness (saving yourself into bankruptcy).  But Seven is Seven, and now you know what Seven Deadly Marketing Sins are at the top of my list.

Now, let us all go out and to the best of our ability, sin no more.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

Back in the early 1940s, Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company coined the phrase “USP – Unique Selling Proposition.”  The term referred to a having, finding or creating a distinctive point of view or reason to buy that is wholly different from the competitions’.

But as a catchphrase, USP is so 70-years-ago!

In the 80’s, marketing agencies, HR consultants and motivational speakers started using the term “elevator pitch,” which kinda says the same thing: What is so special about you (or your company, or your product) that you can express it in just 30 seconds on the ride up the elevator and expect the listener to get it?  We hear that term a lot in angel and investor meetings.

More recently, we find ourselves using the phrase “value proposition.”  And we’ve shorted the time to about 5 seconds, but we’ll settle for 30, just as long as it clearly tells the story.

Your value proposition is the answer to the question “what customer objective does my company help to achieve better than anyone or anything else?

Whichever term you favor, USP, elevator pitch, or value proposition, without it, without a good one, you’re dead!  If you can’t very quickly describe what makes you, your product, your service or your company truly special in the eyes of the customer, don’t expect your customer to do it for you.  By default, they’ll just put you on the shelf called “commodity,” and there you’ll stay.

Every business, whether funeral home or fast-food restaurant, starts out with the same baseline of customer fulfillment as its competition. If you run a funeral home, for example, you might say your value proposition is how much you care for families and the deceased.  But then, what funeral home doesn’t say that?  If you manage a cemetery, you might default to “a beautiful, restful place of honor.” But that’s not unique to your property alone, so it doesn’t really make you special, does it?  Poof, you’re a commodity!  You’re just the same as everybody else.

On the other hand, your value proposition has to be one that is not merely unique but deserves an exclamation point in the eyes of your customer.  It has to create a real sense of Wow! or there really is no value, just proposition.  What can you say that captures the imagination and puts you in a class all your own? That’s at the very heart of making a sale or losing out on one.

I’ll be honest, defining your value proposition takes some real corporate soul-searching at the most fundamental level. It requires seeing yourself from your competitors’ customers’ point of view.  It may even require re-inventing your organization so that there’s an entirely new but better value proposition than the one you’re claiming now.

Commit to asking yourself, just as soon as you finish reading this post, “what’s our value proposition?”  Ask your associates and see if their answers agree with your own, and if they can articulate it in less than 90 seconds.  Aim for 30.  (For my company, we can do it in two seconds: “Agent of Change.”  We even own the registered trademark on it!)

Your value proposition is the very cornerstone of your business.  All sales and marketing must emanate from it.  The stronger your value proposition is…

…and the more clearly it expresses your unique ability to improve your customers’ lives…

…and the most concisely you can articulate it between elevator floors…

…the more confident you can be in betting on your company’s success!

HA logoSome years back, I had decided to take a brief hiatus from advertising and open my own flight school. I thought it would be interesting to put my money where my mouth is and be my own client for a change. Knowing that branding is one of the most vital parts of a any company’s success, I created a unique identity for my flight school, calling it “Hollywood Aviators.” In part it was because we were located close to the film capital, and in part I wanted to attract that crowd. (Angelina Jolie had just earned her pilots license, but there were plenty of others…and we even got a few!)

I created a logo in the style of the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, and we put up floor-to-ceiling photos of John Wayne, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart in aviation roles. Our slogan was “Star treatment from the ground up.” But with all that, I knew that a logo and a slogan were the most superficial parts of branding. What really gives a brand its value is saying and doing those things that are in alignment with the brand. So, for us to be Hollywood Aviators, we had to perform as Hollywood Aviators, from providing star-level customer service to assuring that our facilities and aircraft were as exceptional as possible…even on a shoestring budget. It didn’t take long for people to notice us, and in short time, with a little publicity and advertising to prime the pump, we started to grow.

Of course, then I realized that I really missed my advertising career so I sold the school.

But what I took away from this experience was a first-hand understanding of the power of branding at the deepest levels.

A brand is far more than a logo. It is more than a clever tagline. A successful brand is the living realization of all you promise in your marketing. It’s how you answer the phones. It’s how you follow through on your promises. It’s how you relate to your employees and how your employees relate to your customers. In other words, your brand is also your culture. Being the brand is just as important as executing your branding consistently across all the marketing platforms.

Let’s take the funeral business. If a funeral home’s slogan is “Caring 24/7” for instance, it had better not have an answering machine or an impersonal third-party service if a family calls after hours. And everyone from the maintenance staff to the secretaries to the attendants should understand that they all play a vital role in helping ease a family’s pain in difficult times, even if they hardly ever interface with them directly. If a cemetery’s message is “A New Way,” then everything it does should feel fresh and unexpected, from how the lobby looks to the way the contract is written. Otherwise, it’s only lip service and customers quickly catch on.

In the funeral business, consumers automatically default to stereotypical images which are not very flattering.

So it’s up to you to brand your business in a way that demonstrates you’re in a class all your own. And don’t just tell them with clever marketing, but prove it to them in all the ways your business can actually be the brand.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

Self InterestWhen you write a Facebook post, what are you thinking about at that moment?  Are you thinking, “I want my readers to know this!”?   Are you thinking, “We need to increase our call volume!”?  Or possibly, “We need more Facebook Likes!”?

Or are you thinking, “Why have my followers chosen to Like me?”  How about, “What are they interested in to which I can contribute?”  “What will they share with their friends?”

The first set of questions are just about you and your business.  The second set of questions puts the readers’ interests first.  That’s the way to win over their hearts and minds (and business), certainly far better than the first set.

We call this “Outside-In” thinking, looking at your business from the outside-in.  Unfortunately, too many marketers suffer from “Inside-Out” thinking, seeing things only from the inside, assuming that everybody is as excited about their business as they are.

The reasons you want to communicate with your prospects and customers are certainly going to be motivated by your business objectives. But what you say to them and how you say it has to come from what motivates them.  For all your marketing communications, be it posts, tweets, blasts, banners, commercials or exhibit booths, you have to use your audience’s self-interest as your starting point. Merely posting about your new reception facilities or listing a series of feature-based bullet points is not going to be appealing to their self-interest.  (Would it be to yours if it came from, say, the local muffler store, especially if your car’s running smoothly?)  And for those funeral establishments who use Facebook just to post obituaries, keep in mind that this appeals to a very, very limited audience for a very, very limited time.

I’ve seen way too many funeral home commercials in which the owner walks down the chapel aisle and espouse superior service, affordable prices, casket choices, years in business, and “our family serving yours.”  That’s soooo Inside-Out.  That kind of marketing is soooo “who-cares?”

So what does your audience want to know? What excites and interests them?  What’s good enough for them to share or pass along or even simply pay attention to?  You need to ask that question with every marketing communication you generate.

This is one of the reasons we use a lot of humor or emotions in our own clients’ marketing, because good communication starts with human interest. Anything that makes a person laugh, smile, cry, wince or raise their eyebrows touches deeper human levels and transcends purely rational thinking.

Sponsoring contests, especially if they’re relevant to your message and brand – especially if the prize is big or unique – always has audience-appeal. Showing how your product or service solves your customers’ problems, eases their pain, saves them money or eliminates inconvenience, all speak to their self-interest.  Getting them to think about their own legacy, how they’ll be remembered by their great-grandchildren and generations beyond, eases the fear of death and appeals to the desire to transcend its bounds, even if only symbolically.

Think of it this way, when you go fishing, what do you put on the hook: what you like or what the fish likes?  It’s the same thing in marketing.  Make sure the bait is what they like. You’ll like what happens next.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

 

Business couple“What do you mean the customer went elsewhere? Are you kidding me? When did that happen? Why did they leave? I can’t believe it!”  Have you heard (or said) these words in the past few months or so?

How many times have you lost a family or other business to a competitor?

Well, as we all know, business comes and goes but the sad part about it is that more times than not it’s because we’ve lost track of them or taken them for granted.

Which brings me to the question, “Why do customers leave?”  Curiously, most business owners and managers have the exact wrong idea about why customers leave. Most people believe that customers leave because:

  • They found a lower price.
  • Their needs have changed.
  • (Drum roll please)…Wrong!

According to an in-depth study by the research firm CRMGuru, the reasons customers give for taking their “business down the road” are:

  • Bad customer service: 74%
  • Poor quality of product: 32%
  • Pricing: 25%
  • Functionality/Needs change: 15%

As you can see, when it comes to keeping your existing customers, customer service is three times more important than price–and five times more important than functionality. Which obviously means that if you want to keep the customers you’ve got, you should think about reversing priorities and pay more attention to customer service and quality – and, consequently, less attention to functionality and price. I fully realize that this runs contrary to 90% of what most people think is important, probably because price and functionality can play a large role in new customer acquisition.

Yet, many marketing plans are so focused on customer acquisition that they largely ignore customer retention, especially in the funeral business because it’s long-term. Even a tiny change in customer retention can have a large effect on long-term profitability and growth.  This shouldn’t be underestimated. The easiest way to grow your customers is not to lose them.  In fact, I recently read that 96 percent of dissatisfied customers never complain. They just take their business to one of your competitors, and the unfortunate thing is that you’ll never know why.  Even if you did nothing wrong, you might have simply lost touch.

Want to get an edge over your competitors? With a little attention, your business can be one of those which can negate churn and improve profitability. Here’s a  list of the five strategies (only limited by space) you can use to improve customer retention.

 Keep them on your radar screen

So many companies do an excellent job of making the initial sale, then start chasing other prospects and in the process forget about their current customer…ignore may be the case as well…or they just get complacent.  To make sure that future referrals and repeat business materialize from this customer, it’s important to make sure that you demonstrate by your actions that you really care and that everyone who has done business with you has made the right decision. This can be accomplished by putting a plan in place to communicate with them, and sell to them again and again, constantly proving that your firm was the right choice.

Build engaging relationships

With CRM programs all the rage, coupled with Big Data and predictive analytics providing marketers with in depth customer insights, the key to engagement is through personalization. In fact, as consumers ourselves, we expect and demand that companies personalize messaging and offers so they’re relevant to our wants and needs. You can do this by providing clients with ongoing communications that are personalized to them. Send them reminders, or offers or information that they’ll like at the right time based on when they might need your product or services. Do some A/B testing in order to see what catches the attention of your customers. And, even recommend products to them. Offers, timing and product recommendations all show that you know and care about your clients.

Share useful content/information

Customers buy from people. They buy based on trust. Building trust with new customers is the key to getting them to buy in the first place.  And maintaining and strengthening that trust is the key to keeping your customer over the long term, improving customer retention. In today’s marketplace, it’s not enough to have a wonderful product or service, you also have to help educate your customers on how they can use your product or service better.  Content must abide by three criteria: it must be expected, valuable and relevant.

Give Back

Going back to your own personal experience for a minute, what is your impression of a company that, out-of-blue, gives you something you could use….for no cost. Not as an incentive or ulterior motive to purchase or do something else, but rather “just because.” It probably left you feeling good about the company, maybe even made you happy. Using the element of surprise to your advantage is a good thing because people naturally remember when something surprised them in a good way. You see, winning customers over starts with winning their thanks on individual terms. And while technology allows you to offer up this surprise to whatever scale you want, the fact is people remember acts of kindness when it feels personal.

Provide Proactive Customer Service

Of course, if you’re a funeral provider, you certainly offer the highest degree of hands-on care, right? Or if you’re a supplier, customer support is paramount, right again? But are you also being proactive with them?  Being proactive, or anticipating what the customer might need or addressing problems before they happen is both unexpected and greatly appreciated.  This could be as simple as calling and asking if everything is OK before the client calls you to say something is not. Or letting them know that the product they recently bought is being redesigned and will look different or is going to be sold in bulk versus single-product purchases. And lastly, there’s nothing like hearing from the customers themselves.  Some sort of a feedback system, such as a survey or speaking directly with your loyal customers, shows them that you really care about their recent experience with your company and will help identify any issues to address.

Think Long-Term Relationships

For funeral providers especially, once a family has made arrangements, or purchased a plot, or completed a memorial service, this should be only the beginning of your relationship, not the end. Too many cemeteries and funeral homes are too quick to move on to the next piece of business instead of “farming” old customers, keeping up their databases, and staying in touch year-after-year with the family.  Don’t dare let this happen to you!  Out of sight should never mean out of mind, where past business is concerned.  Make calls, send letters, send informational emails, and let the family know that your care is ongoing (as it should be).  And the same holds true to suppliers to the industry as well if you expect to be around next decade and beyond: your past customer is your best next customer.

Regardless of what you’re selling, your long-term profitability is largely dependent upon your ability to keep current customers, compared to acquiring new ones. While you must always try things to attract new customers to your business, don’t take for granted those who are already in your camp and are supporting your business.  Don’t forget, every now and then, to “dance with dem dat brung ya.”

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

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