Business Tips

3 Gridiron-Approved Ways To Train New Employees

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Football season is almost here---in just a short time, we’ll be back to enjoying weekends full of football. I can’t wait. And as I consider fall camp, I’m thinking about what we can take from the football field and apply to training better customer service employees. Here are three things straight from the gridiron that we can learn about how to train new employees.

1. Everybody gets better together.

Fall training is the first time incoming freshmen get to be part of the team. Whether they’ll get playing time remains to be seen, but in training, everyone is there---most experienced and the least---so everyone can learn together. Business training should be the same way. No one gets a pass with training: make sure everyone’s involved because everyone can learn something.

2. It weeds out those who can’t hang.

Sometimes, fall camp rosters start to get a little slimmer. It’s a little bit disheartening at first, but think about it: if players couldn’t hang in the heat of practice, do you think they’d fare any better in the heat of the game? Probably not. There’s a business parallel here, too. You’ll find that as your business grows, you’ll have to cut the slack in order to move together as a team. That means coaching up individuals who need help, and, when necessary, cutting individuals who aren’t up to the task of winning a call. How can you know exactly who’s who? Call recording. By monitoring your employees’ calls at all times (when you’re there and when you’re not), you ensure that they’re not slacking in providing excellent customer experiences: they aren’t letting phones ring, leaving customers hanging, or coming up short. And call records also have the power to show you who your star team members are---those who are going above and beyond to polish your company’s good reputation. But before you’re in a pivotal game situation, you need to practice.

3. Practice reveals strengths and weaknesses.

Two-a-days, drills, and scrimmages show what you’re good at, collectively and individually. They also show the big holes in your offense, the weaknesses in your defense, and what could cost you the game. “Practice” in business takes a little different form, but the premise is the same: single employees can cost the entire team a win. And the whole team, as a unit, has to be pushing toward the same goal. That’s why call recording is so important as a training tool, too. You can use real recorded calls to train your employees in situations they will actually encounter without the game-time pressure. Once you and your team are ready, you can move from training---the JV games, if you will---to live calls (the games that matter).

Fall camp is important in football. “It is a time when teams are built, players prove they belong, coaches find out who they can use and teams grow together." Similarly, the training process for new employees matters just as much. As they say, the way you practice is the way you perform.

What Do Millennials Value In Customer Service?

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Millennial: (noun) a person born in the 1980s or 1990s usually plural.

Chances are, you parent one, hire one, work with one, or otherwise know one. There are many theories of Millennials as employees, but not as much is said about these young adults as consumers.

Did you know that Millennials have $200 billion of direct purchasing power and $500 billion of indirect spending (mostly the influence on the spending of their mostly baby boomer parents)?

And did you know that those numbers will continue to surge? That’s a lot of potential income you could gain---or lose---depending on how your company plans to market to and serve customers in this generation. So, it’s important to know, what do Millennials value in customer service?

1. Millennials won’t look to the person---they’ll look to the app.

Micah Solomon has an excellent column on serving customers at this age. Here’s one of the most interesting points:

“Millennials have different ideas of where humans should fit into customer service delivery. If an app or algorithm can deliver what they need, so much the better. Which is one reason most Millennials consult their smartphones first even when they’re in your store and a human a human paid to assist them is standing at the ready.”

He goes on to say that Millennials want to choose to interact; they don’t expect to do so based on bad user experience or “sloppy” systems. Give Millennials a good system to answer their own questions first.

2. Millennials want transparency.

Whether it’s a work, personal, or business relationship, Millennials expect their boss/employee/significant other/buyer/seller to be open and honest. In business transactions, this means being upfront about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t hide it from Millennials, because (with their seemingly permanently attached smartphones), they’ll share their experiences with anyone who will listen. And they’ll get heard.

3. Millennials are incredibly reachable.

Take a look at some of these statistics taken from “The Millennial Generation Research Review,” an article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • Millennials are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of technology than are older generations.

  • They are more likely to use the internet, broadcast thoughts, and contribute content. Millennials stand out when it comes to producing and uploading online content.

  • In 25% of searches for the top 20 brands, results are links to user-generated content. This has huge implications for brands to become aware of others’ experiences of their product or service and ensure that it is in harmony with their brand strategy.

  • Marketing and advertising to Millennials should be placed around engaging content. Engagement is higher among Millennials than other generations for television and websites; on a percentage basis, it is greater online than on TV. It appears that Millennials are highly engaged with content they chose to view online and on TV, which amplifies the effectiveness of ads for Millennials.

The counter to that? Millennials know how to disengage, too, and they don’t hesitate to do so. That makes the way you engage with Millennial customers incredibly profitable (or detrimental) to you.

“They have the confidence to stand up for what they believe and the confidence, technology, and network to voice their opinions. With Millennials, brands know where they stand, sometimes even minute to minute. According to one survey, 86% of Millennials are willing to share information about their brand preferences online, making it a top personal identifier.” -U.S. Chamber Foundation

With tools like call tracking, you’ll have evidence to show you exactly how well you’re reaching this up-and-coming demographic. You can measure your marketing effectiveness with unique phone call tracking numbers and simple reports designed to help you improve the way you treat customers (including Millennials!).

4. Millennials won’t wait for you to respond.

If you snooze, you’ll lose them. In customer service, that means not only being accessible to help answer their questions and solve their problems, but being actively involved in helping them find a solution that pleases them, whether it’s over the phone, via email, or through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook or review websites like Yelp.

We love the way the way the U.S. Chamber Foundation says it, and we think it sums up customer service---Millennial style:

“It all comes down to trust for brands. The trust is deeper and more intense with this group, but the greater availability of information can also destroy it faster.”

3 Business Tips Straight From The World Cup

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Have you caught World Cup fever?

As enthusiasm grows for the sport, more and more people are tuning in to the tournament, drafting their favorite players in fantasy leagues, and, of course, cheering for their teams. One thing I've noticed as I've watched---football (the other kind) has a lot in common with successful business practices. These three business tips stick out to me:

1. Goals matter.

This one’s pretty obvious in soccer, isn’t it? But how much attention do you pay to your business goals? If you’re not setting goals and measuring your levels of success against them, you might just be wasting your time---and money. Not sure where to start? Sit down with your staff and create goals for yourself, your employees, and your company that are SMART:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Actionable

  • Results-focused, and

  • Time-bound

Once you’ve clearly and concisely set goals, follow through on them. Make sure you revisit them annually to make sure you’re on track, and don’t be afraid to adjust your goals when necessary.

2. Listen to the coach.

As the owner or manager of your company, this may sound a little funny to you---after all, aren’t you in charge? Exactly! You’re the coach, which means you are responsible for coming up with a game plan, conditioning, training, and ultimately, executing a win.

In December, the U.S. Mens Soccer Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinnsman had this to say about his team: “We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament." Sounds pretty harsh, right? This article contends that that Jurgen’s brand of coaching is exactly what the team needs.

“Through this sort of harsh realism, Klinsmann is asserting his belief that the U.S. must significantly change the way it produces soccer players. He wants the team to develop a coherent national style of play that will be employed at every level” so that 9-year-olds play the same way the national team plays. He wants teenagers to join professional teams when they're 18 instead of going to college, like they do in Europe. He wants to proactively identify and recruit dual nationals.”

How does that relate to business? It means everything starts with you. Despite what Klinsmann said about his own team, he obviously believes they have the potential and capacity to win on a big scale. Whether you’re frankly pragmatic, like Klinsmann, or more optimistic, the tone and expectations you set for your team will direct your success or failure (yet another reason we think it’s imperative to set goals from the top down).

3. Have a backup plan.

When USMNT defender John Brooks scored the winning goal in the United States’ game against Ghana, being a “backup” didn’t matter. Brooks actually became the first U.S. MNT substitute to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup, but what really mattered was that, in the 86th minute, Brooks’ goal was on target. Clenching a win against Ghana secured the U.S. team a win.

Like Brooks’ last-minute goal, a backup in business can come out of nowhere and help your business win big, too. With call tracking, you can have a backup always there to help you track calls across the U.S. without having to deal with your phone company.

Here’s how it works: When you advertise, we partner with you to give you local or toll-free numbers, depending on your needs. Whether you choose 800 or vanity numbers, you can use  your numbers on specific campaigns to see how the results stack up against each other. That information can help you determine which media work best for you, what time of day your ads are most successful, and more. (P.S. Not sure if you need a local or toll free number? Here's an article that can help.)

With call tracking, you won’t have to scratch your head wondering how your advertising campaigns are doing (and why they are or are not wins for your company). If you think that sounds good, but want even more insight into customer phone calls, we can record each call, too, so you can review them to help your team close more business.

So, whether you have been a diehard fan for years or are just dipping your toes into the world of (the other) football, enjoy the tournament! And then, take these tips back to the office and see what a difference they will make for your team. 

Managing Interns Without Losing Your Mind? Yes, You Can!

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Ah, sweet summertime.

Sleeping in late. Watching ice cream melt and drip into sticky puddles on the floor. Long lunches followed by lazy afternoons. Unbridled laughter and exuberant chatter as friends recount stories of those hot summer nights.

And that’s just in your office.

Let’s face it---adults feel the same way about summertime as they did as kids: it's a season of “taking it easy.” And that feeling doesn’t get left at the door when they come to work. But, as a small business owner, you know you can’t afford to slack off (and neither can your employees). Here are six ways you can make sure your office productivity doesn’t take a leap off the high dive when summer begins.

1. Plan Beforehand

The first step in successfully managing interns and summer hires is to prepare for them. Game plan exactly what you want the next three (or however many) months to look like and what you hope to gain from the hire or hires. Think about what you want them to learn from you. It’s important to put some thought in to this and then write it down so you don’t waste time (yours and theirs) and money.

2. Make Your Expectations Known

As soon as your new employees arrive, tell them exactly what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. And this is important: be clear in stating your goals for their time with you as well as your company’s policies.

One article calls this setting the stage: let your interns know how their performance will be evaluated, how they will be paid, and who they can go to with concerns.

Giving clear instructions won’t just set the tone for the rest of the time these employees will be with you, it can also save you the money and hassle of dealing staffing changes and retention issues.

3. Give Them A Project They Own

Of course, it’s not fair to dog interns and summer hires if you’re not giving them anything to do. They are eager to show they can help, and you might be surprised at how insightful their fresh perspectives are in solving problems, identifying weaknesses, and improving strengths. The tasks you assign them don’t have to be important, necessarily, as much as purposeful. Do you have any less urgent, yet purposeful, tasks on your desk that you never get to? If so, consider delegating these tasks!

4. Guide Them

The other angle? Interns are with you to learn how the real world works---and how they can work in it. Giving them a few projects that matter will show them what it’s really like when someone depends on you to do a job well without giving you cardiac arrest if they make a mistake (and they will!). You’re in a unique (and pretty awesome) position to show someone who has no experience what the “real world” is all about, so take pride in it.

  • Institute an open-door policy: let them know from the beginning that the more questions they ask, the more they’ll learn, and that’s why you’re there.

  • Take time to give feedback.

  • Be honest when it comes to giving recommendations.

5. Guarantee Your Peace of Mind When You’re Not Around

One summer in college, I worked with someone who refused to answer the phone. Every time it rang, this employee either walked away or picked up the phone and set it back down---hanging up on probably hundreds of potential customers in the short time I worked there.

I’m not sure how our supervisor found out this was going on, but I do know it took months. I imagine thinking about the potential lost profit made my boss ill. Temporary and summer employees are a golden example of how a tool like call recording can make a huge difference in your business. If my boss had known about call tracking and recording, she wouldn’t have had to wait months to find out about the dozens of callers who never got through (she’d be alerted almost immediately that there was a pattern of dropping calls). And instead of having to let go of a teary-eyed employee who didn’t know how to do a job (and who just hung up the calls), she could have used recording phone conversations as a training tool, not only for that employee, but for all future employees (to make sure the situation never happened again)!

6. Have Fun, Too

Managing interns and summer hires is a lot of work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Not only do you get to help form someone’s first work experience (a huge life event!), but you can potentially gain an exceptional member of your team. Enjoy the experience, and then stay in touch with those who go above and beyond; use the training ground you provided for your benefit (not your competitiors’!).

With these tips, you’ll not only gain an outstanding employee, you’ll improve your company---and be on the way to becoming one of the businesses every potential employee wants to be a part of. Let us help you get there.

P.S. What’s the best (or worst!) summer job you’ve ever had?

The Small Business Owners' Checklist Before Going on Vacation

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I have a friend who refuses to go on vacation. It’s not that she doesn’t want---or need---a break from the office, it’s that she’s too nervous to go. She owns a small business, and she thinks the risk of leaving her baby (her company) outweighs the restorative powers of a vacation.

She compared leaving her business for a week’s vacation to that tinge of nervousness you feel when you leave your home for a few days and, an hour down the road, start to wonder if you left the garage door open or the front door unlocked. She was certain that panicked feeling would ruin her entire time away, so she just never left.

Do you know anyone who feels this way? Most entrepreneurs don’t need a reason to go on vacation, they need an assurance that, while they’re away, business won’t go up in smoke (figuratively and literally!). And guess what? With a little planning, a restful vacation is completely within grasp. Here’s are the items that should be on every small business owner’s checklist before going on vacation:

1. Strategize when you’ll take vacation time.

This is key to ensuring you’ll actually make it to your destination. Consider your business’ rhythms, and schedule to be gone during a time of relative calmness. If your business doesn’t have predictable faster and slower periods, AdviCoach CEO Brian Miller suggests “testing the waters” of vacation during holidays, when clients aren’t as likely to need you. Another bonus to planning a vacation in advance? Studies show that the mere act of planning---and subsequent waiting for---a vacation is enough to boost happiness levels for weeks. And that’s not even considering the vacation itself!

2. Prepare your employees for your vacation.

Once you’ve marked your departure date on your calendar, don’t look back---look around. Those people sitting in your office? You hired them for a reason. They can do good work, so give them a chance to shine. Start a couple months in advance (maybe ten weeks or so), preparing employees to handle the tasks you usually accomplish.

This article from the New York Times includes several tick-boxes for preparing employees, including:

  • writing and explaining detailed instructions on handling correspondence;

  • preemptive problem solving: going over potential problems with employees and providing guidance on how to handle them; and

  • meeting with staff members and reviewing all projects beforehand to snuff out potential issues.

3. Let your clients know they’ll be in good hands while you’re gone.

If your ongoing projects involve customer feedback, it’s worthwhile to keep them in-the-loop on your plans, too. With reassurance they won’t get left high-and-dry while you’re away, you’ll not only avoid panicked “where are you and what’s going on?!” emails, calls and texts, but you’ll be introducing a chain-of-command that will give you backup for the next time you are away. Some concrete ways to do this? Personally introduce the employee who will be taking care of each customer while you’re away, and include both your customer and employee on correspondence before your trip, so everyone is on the same page. If you don’t want to miss a single conversation, consider recording the calls your employees have with your customers. You won’t miss a beat, even when you’re miles away.

4. Wrap-up big projects before you leave.

Don’t leave any important tasks sitting on your desk. Finish them before your vacation, so you don’t have the distraction of a nagging to-do list in the back of your mind. Clean out your inboxes, voicemail, and physical paper piles, too, so you can come back to work with a clean desk and fresh attitude.

5. Schedule limited check-ins.

If you must, make the choice to check-in at specific times during the day or week. Some business owners choose to check in first thing in the morning and again in the late afternoon; others check once-a-day at 10 a.m. Tell your staff the parameters for when they should contact you directly, otherwise, don’t waste your regenerative time sorting through emails. Set aside the time period you’re willing to work, and prioritize the things that you must attend to. If it can wait, let it, and enjoy your time away!

With this checklist, you’ll be able to spend restful quality time away from the office with peace-of-mind that comes with knowing everything at your business is under control. And you may even find that the time you spend outside of the office improves your work inside the office!

Now you tell us, what’s the longest time period you’ve spent away from your business?

How Secure Are Your Business Passwords?

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Imagine leaving your safe deposit box---filled with private information, important documents and financial information---unlocked. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it? This is exactly what’s happened to countless Internet users because of a security hole called Heartbleed. We want to give you a little bit of background on Heartbleed as well as provide you with tools you can use to evaluate the login credentials you use to create stronger personal and business passwords.

What is Heartbleed?

Mashable sums it up this way:

“Heartbleed is a bug in the code running on the servers of millions of websites. It leaves open a hole that allows hackers to get in and around the encryption between you and the site. This means that the information stored on the servers, and passed between you, could be stolen.”

It’s important to note that the bug was discovered by Google’s security team and a firm called Codenomicon, and it’s believed hackers haven’t known about the exploit. Think about it this way: in the example above, the safe deposit box (your personal information) was exposed, but it’s not believed that any of the information was stolen. Nonetheless, you still need to change your passwords.

What websites were affected?

OpenSSL, the software library Heartbleed occurs in, is used on an estimated 66 percent of the web, so there’s a good chance that at least a few of the websites you visit were affected, including Google/Gmail, Yahoo, Instagram, and Pinterest. According to the Heartbleed website, “Your popular social site, your company's site, commerce site, hobby site, site you install software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL.” Here is a good website that lists many of the affected websites along with some popular websites that weren’t hit. The web browser Chrome also has an extension called Chromebleed that tells you the website you’re visiting is on the “Heartbleed hit list.”

So, how secure is your password?

Chances are, it’s not secure at all. Wordpress says it like this:

“The most common advice you’ll hear about creating a strong password today is very outdated and impractical. A password created with that advice, like jal43#Koo%a, is very easy for a computer to break and very difficult for a human to remember and type. The latest and most effective types of password attacks can attempt up to 350 billion guesses per second, and that number will no doubt increase significantly over the next few years. Creating a strong password today requires modern techniques.”

This comic underscores the idea of hard to remember/easy to guess passwords with the underlying idea that they just don’t work. So, what does work?

What does a secure password look like?

Let’s get this out of the way: there’s no failsafe password. There’s an inherent risk in using the internet, but, thankfully, there are methods you can use to protect your sensitive information that are proven to work really well. Here are two secure password “modern methods” mentioned in the Wordpress article quoted above: using a password manager and using a passphrase instead of a password.

Using a password manager:

A password manager stores your credentials for all the websites you use and helps you automatically log-in to them. Password managers encrypt your password database with a master password---that master password is the only one you have to remember. The software will automatically create unique, complex passwords (like this: N8!BmW!A8$6a23jk%sdf2354#*x4]sa+f423@) to automatically log you in, but you won’t have to remember them.

Password management software is available at all price points and with basic and advanced features. Here’s a list of password management software available---you can also Google “password management software” and find other options. (If you do this, just be sure you do your research and find a reputable company.)

Follow the instructions that come with your software to ensure you’re using it properly and keeping your sensitive information as secure as possible.

Using a passphrase:

Next to password managers, passphrases are the best way to create secure passwords. If you can’t use a password manager, you definitely need to use passphrases. A passphrase uses four unrelated words with additional characters and spaces to create a more complex, harder-to-guess password. This Wordpress article does a great job of explaining what a passphrase is and teaching you how to create one.

Just keep these three things in mind:

  1. Mix it up. Don’t use a predictable pattern (like a sentence) for your phrase.

  2. Don’t use your personal information, like names, addresses, phone numbers or things that could be researched online. And never use your social security number.

  3. Don’t use published phrases. Book titles, song lyrics, funny quotes, etc. are all bad and easily guessable.

Whether you use a password manager or passphrases, follow these guidelines:

  • Never use a password twice.

  • Don’t email, text, or otherwise share your passwords.

  • Don’t let internet browsers “remember” your password, whether you’re on a public computer or even on your personal laptop.

  • Don’t write down your passwords. If you must, store them in a safe, secure place, like a safe or bank deposit box.

We know you do everything you can to help your business succeed. By taking a few extra steps to secure your password, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your business and personal accounts are in good hands---yours!

5 Things You'll Love About Local Business Numbers

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Would it feel weird to you to if you called an 800 number to order a pizza? Or dialed 1-800-HAIRCUT to schedule a trim? What about calling toll-free to a store a few miles away to see what time it opens? At first blush, you might think not think much of it. But, when you start to dial that number, you might start to wonder, "why aren’t I calling a local number for a local service?"

Guess what? Your customers feel the same way!

If your company has satellite offices, you probably need more than a toll-free number. Because looking local to your customers is important to them, it should matter to you, too! Here’s why companies with multiple locations should invest in local business numbers for each of their offices.

1. You’re part of the community.

Having a local number (or numbers) caters to regional customers. When a customer sees his area code, he thinks, “I can trust this brand to take care of me in my hometown,” even if your brand is known nationwide. Which leads us to the next point:

2. Your customers trust you; you’re not just an outsider.

Face it, not all potential customers trust the idea of a company who isn’t “from around here.” No matter how well you serve your customers, research shows that, among businesses who use both local and toll-free numbers in yellow page listings, the local numbers bring in upwards of 68 percent more leads. That’s a lot of leads! Maybe it’s sentimentality, maybe it’s because a local number is associated with close ties, or maybe it’s just because there are still a lot of people who haven’t bought in to the idea of not having brick-and-mortar store to do business at, but what’s local is golden.

3. Your numbers have the local business “feel.”

Local business is associated with personalized service that is a must for all businesses, whether they’re based one or one thousand miles away. Toll-free numbers have a hard time with this. One study said it this way:

“The reason why ads with 800 numbers fail to receive high call volumes in both print and online media is because of the general negative reaction of customers to an 800 number. Such a number suggests the following: “not a local business”, “call centre”, “long waiting queues”, “less personal service”, “automated voice systems.”

If your company has multiple locations, numbers pinpointed to each office can give you an advantage over toll-free-only competitors.

4. You can add numbers for each location.

As your company reaches its growth goals, you’ll be able to connect as many additional local numbers as you need in as many locations as you need.

For example, consider Dr. Clean, our favorite dentist. He’s got a main practice as well as a satellite office about an hour away. Though only about 70 miles apart, his satellite office is located in a different time zone and is on the state border, and the closest town, where most of his patients live, is actually in the bordering state.

When Dr. Clean established his second office, he chose to add a number local to the town his patients live in. He wanted his patients to understand from the minute they called to schedule their appointments that he was their local dentist, even though his main office was in a different town. That way, he could avoid the misperception that patients would have to travel to a different city (in a different area code) for their care.

5. You can still have your 800-number, too.

Of course, your business may need and benefit from a toll-free number, too. We think you should have all the tools you need to help your business succeed, so you get both. By pairing local and toll-free numbers, you can maximize your reach and your target audience.

From a customer service standpoint, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Looking local is also easy to implement. Through number routing, companies with multiple locations can easily establish several local business numbers (and toll-free numbers, too!).

Then, once you’ve established your numbers, you can track and measure your business to see where business is booming and where you may need to make adjustments. With that information, you’ll be able to identify what really makes your phone ring (and you’ll be adding more numbers in no time!).

Have we convinced you yet? You can pick your number here, or, give us a call or contact us to if you need a little more information.

Don't Let Madness Stop Your Business Productivity

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I bet you’ve heard about the guy who decided he’d give away a billion dollars to anybody who could come up with a perfect bracket. Lucky for him, none of the millions of bracket entries made it past the first round of the challenge (and if you’re one of the participants, don’t feel bad---you only had a one in 576 quadrillion chance of winning).

For almost every other business owner out there, losing money during March Madness isn’t a game they want to play---NCAA-obsessed workers could cost employers $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour.

50 million Americans are expected to participate in March Madness, and most likely, you employ at least one of them (hey, you may be a little obsessed yourself!). It’s fun, after all! But if you’ve got employees doing more than sneaking glances at their phones and spending a little too long in the break room, chances are they’re not doing all of the work they can---or should---be doing. What should you do to keep tabs on your business productivity?

You’ve got two options:

A. Shut off your business operations to the dancing completely.

Block streaming websites, collect smartphones, enforce TV-free break rooms, and cause general overall office depression. Probably incite a walk-off. Definitely have someone switch the sugar bowl you use for your coffee to salt. This approach may backfire.

B. Enjoy the madness, but track your business productivity.

Look, you’re smart. You know it’s impossible to put blinders on your team, but you also know that you’re responsible for how you manage distractions, especially when they affect your bottom line. One easy-to-implement solution? Call recording.

Why does this work? Monitoring your employees this way ensures that they’re not slacking in providing excellent customer experiences: they aren’t letting phones ring, leaving customers hanging, or coming up short on serving the customer just because a game is scheduled to start soon.

Recording calls keeps everyone accountable, but it's a means for recognizing and rewarding outstanding members of your team, too.

When you start recording your calls, you’ll be able to turn your productivity questions into data you’ll be able to use and re-use. It’s not just a good tool for March Madness aka business distraction season---there are exponential ways you can use data from recorded calls month-after-month (training and continuing education opportunities and onboarding for new employees come to mind immediately).

Call recording is about more than policing your employees. You don’t have to hover over their desks to make sure work is being done well---the numbers will tell you all of that. It’s about maintaining an environment where your customers are served well and your operations are running smoothly. When those things are taken care of, a few minutes to watch a basketball game won’t be a big deal at all. In fact, taking that time to celebrate wins and bemoan busted brackets together will boost office morale. And who doesn’t want that?

Should Your Business Get A Toll Free Number?

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Pay phones. Calling collect. Toll free numbers.

One of these things is not like the others.

Long gone are the days of scouting out a phone booth to make a phone call, and cell phone minute plans make calling collect ubiquitous---minutes are minutes whether you’re calling one house over or several time zones away.

So, if a vast majority of customers use services that don’t charge them to make calls, and they can call from any location, should your business have a toll-free number? Ask yourself these five questions to see if a toll-free number is a good call for your business.

1. Do we serve customers outside of our area?

If you’re shipping to, serving, or otherwise communicating with customers who are across the map, a toll-free number is a must-have. It tells potential customers that you’re willing to serve them no matter what their location. Consider this: you’re browsing online for a specific gift and you see two companies selling the same item for the same price. One has a toll-free contact number, and one has only a local number. Who do you call first? Chances are, you’re going to pick the 800-number, even if the only reason is because they appear to be more professional. Which leads us to our second question...

2. Does our business portray a professional image? 

800-numbers are a great equalizer in terms of professionalism. No matter how many employees you have or how long you’ve been established, a toll-free number gives an "official" feel to your business correspondence. With vanity numbers, the potential for unique branding and advertising is even greater.

3. Is our business growing?

Hopefully, your answer to this is a resounding yes! For growing businesses, toll-free and 800-numbers are an asset because they can easily be scaled from two to 200 numbers. In fact, you only have to pay for what you use---there’s not any charge for services that don’t work for you.

4. Are our offices in more than one location?

Toll free numbers work well for franchise businesses and satellite locations by providing cohesive contact information for each office no matter where it is located. Extensions allow you to route the call to the right employee, even if he or she is located hundreds of miles away from your main office!

5. Do we need a cost-effective solution that still lets us care for customers?

Another benefit of utilizing toll-free numbers is their low cost. Toll-free numbers are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install for business owners, and, of course, are free for current and potential customers. Though it’s true that many customers don’t have to pay for calls---especially if they are calling from cell phones---it still matters for two reasons: First, it still matters to some people. Take, for instance, the outcry against Spirit Airlines when the company announced it was switching from toll-free to not free numbers. Secondly, though it may not actually affect your customers, the perception that you would charge them to do business with you doesn’t seem like very good customer service (whether they would actually be charged or not!).

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, a toll free number could benefit your business. It takes only a minute to get set up, and you can add more numbers at any time. Contact us today and let us handle the details!

What's Your Backup Plan For Phone Outages?

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“Dangerous arctic blasts! It may feel like -40 degrees!” “You won’t believe where it snowed!” “Is the sun taking a break?”Warning: Icy mess in days ahead.”

If you’ve stepped outside in, say, the last few months, you don’t need headlines to tell you---it’s been really cold lately. Along with dangerously low temperatures, Old Man Winter has dumped a season’s worth of snow in some places in just a few weeks, caused ice storms in others, and produced damaging wind and rain elsewhere.

Weather has caused a mess that’s closed schools and shuttered businesses, and guess what? It’s not going to stop, even after winter ends!

Even when the snow plows are stored away and winter coats are packed in a closet, you’re still going to have to worry about the weather. Tornado season, hurricane season, wildfire season, flood season; no matter where you live or what time of the year it is, you’ve got to be ready for disasters.

For business owners, this means having a backup plan for your business operations.

Imagine this:

You’ve just finished eating dinner and are cleaning up your kitchen, watching the local weather, when you hear a weather alert warning you of extreme winds and snowfall. You’re already hoping there won’t be a delay on the commute to work; your day is packed, and you and your employees can’t afford to lose one minute of productivity. You’ve just gone live with an advertising campaign that you’ve spent the last quarter perfecting, and the leads are coming in fast. You fall asleep that night dreaming of the potential customers you'll earn and profit you can make.

The next morning, you arrive to work to find out that not only did the previous night’s ice storm take out power, but it also collapsed and severed phone lines. Power is on, but there’s no telling when your business’ internet and phone will be restored---it could be hours, days, or even weeks. You're so mad you could scream. Not only have you missed any of the potential calls that could've been buys, but you may have many current customers who are upset that they couldn’t get the assistance they needed, either. You’re sickened just thinking about the customers who may have been lost and the resources wasted on campaign ruined by Mother Nature. Because of a phone outage, your business is paralyzed.

Now, consider this version:

You get to work to find out that not only did the previous night’s ice storm take out power, but it also collapsed and severed phone lines. You’re frustrated, naturally, but at least you know that you haven’t missed any leads, because you’ve got a partner who takes care of your phone operations and guarantees both you and your clients are taken care of in situations like this. In fact, every potential customer who called---and who will call---will reach someone who can help them. You rest assured knowing that your marketing campaign wasn’t spoiled by bad weather and bad luck. Despite the disaster, it’s better than business as usual.

Can you tell the difference? The difference is having a back-up plan.

In situation one, things are under control when everything’s operating as it should be. But, should disaster occur, there’s no way for you to recoup your losses, because there’s no contingency.

In situation two, having a back up plan takes care of the unknown for you. You never have to think about the “what-ifs?” if a disaster strikes, because you’ve chosen to partner with a company that can give you reliable service and a guaranteed back up plan for phone outages.

Here’s how it works:

With what’s called multi-route management, multiple vendors are available at any time and in any situation to serve you. If disaster or emergency causes one vendor to go down, your calls are immediately routed to the next. Redundancy is built in to the system so you never have to worry about losing current and potential customer calls. This way, if bad weather, emergency, or any number of other unforeseen circumstances occur, you’re covered.

You won't miss calls, you won't lose business, and you'll be able to serve your customers well. And, you'll have peace of mind knowing that you don't have to worry in any kind of weather.

But, maybe thinking about this situation has you checking your local forecast. If so, contact us. We can help you come up with a back up plan for phone outages that will serve your customers reliably no matter the season.

With that in mind, tell us, has your business’ productivity ever suffered due to the weather?

4 Signs It's Time To Streamline Your Phone System Services

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Hey, business owner. I’ve got a question for you. What’s your problem?

Yes, I’m really asking you! You’ve got a lot on your mind. Of course, you’ve got your long-term goals: the legacy you’ll leave as an entrepreneur and person, as well as your hallmark 10-, 20- and 30-year plans. And then you have your short-term goals; the steps you’re taking to get to the places you want to be. You may even have daily goals, prioritized on a task list, to keep you on track. And those are all good things!

But that’s not all you’ve got on your mind, is it? You’ve got challenges to work past. You’ve got all of the details and minutiae to deal with, too. The equipment. The bills. The administrative work. The tedious tasks you hate and that never seem finished. All of those time suckers that sneak in and seems to take over---and take away from---the things you want to do and the things that will bring your organization forward.

So, I’ll ask you again. What are your problems? You can probably make a list of the top 20 hassles you face day-to-day in about five minutes, but I’ll add in one pretty common thing that you should consider a problem: your phone system services. Don’t believe me? Take a look below at these four signs your business” phone system is setting you back more than you think.

Four Signs It’s Time To Streamline:

1. “I’m not getting anything done!”

How often do you say this, out loud or in your head? If your productivity and your profit margins are suffering because you and your employees are spending too much time on something that you’re not good at, put the kibosh on it.

I really like this article, which enforces the idea of getting rid of the things that take you longer, frustrate you, or that you’re simply not very good at. In fact, the article states that those meaningless but necessary tasks are exactly what you should delegate first.

“These are your lowest payoff activities. They are the ones you dread, because you don’t enjoy them and you aren’t good at them. By hanging on to them, you are holding you and your organization back. The sooner you delegate them, the better.”

Not only are these tasks taking away from the meaningful work you do, they’re actually eating away at the time you could have to make ideas happen and increase your bottom line. (The other side of this is that there is someone out there who can do this task for you, and will do it more effectively and at a fair cost.)

It may give you pause to think about paying someone else to do something you think you can handle yourself, but consider the hidden costs of the time you’re spending. Is it worth continuing, or is there a better system available? This is especially true in terms of delegating a separate company to handle your phone systems services. Consider the time and the level of dedication you can afford to give vs. the attention a company who specializes in providing excellent phone system services can give!

2. “I don’t know what my customers are thinking! How can I get inside their heads?”

Going the do-it-yourself route for call tracking and recording in-office is a bear, but you know that data is imperative to the success of your business. So you keep doing it, either by yourself or by assigning it to an employee who makes it a part of his or her job duties. But what happens when holes start to unravel your system? What if that employee is away, or your equipment fails, or there’s just not enough manpower to handle the job? You’ll lose the feedback of clients, or worse yet, may ignore them completely. Without any insight into how it's working for your customers, even the most innovative product, service or brand can fall flat.

If the motivation of your clients, their satisfaction, and most importantly, their loyalty, are something you’re struggling to solve by yourself, guess what? You don’t have to! (If this scenario has piqued your interest, skip down to “How do I know if this is even working?!” to find out more. Don’t worry, the rest of the article will still be here.)

3. “Why does this have to be so complicated?! Why doesn’t anything work around here!”

 I can’t help you with any plumbing issues at your office (sorry!). But I do know that your business phone system (and the way it operates) does not have to cause you or your employees headaches. If you and your staff are constantly forced to deal with downtimes, excessive costs, or other phone system-induced drama, there is an easier way!

We’ve got flexible, scalable, month-to-month plans that can change and grow as you need them to, not as defined by a contract. We’d be happy to talk with you about them more if that’s what you’re looking for! And, because we take care of as much of your phone system needs as you want, we can keep you happy by making your phone call system more efficient.

4. “How do I know if this is even working?!”

Don’t let this question keep you awake in the middle of the night. It’s critical to measure the leads your marketing is bringing in, but it is also simple. We’ve talked about some of the ways you can measure your marketing tactics in this post, but it’s worth repeating:

“One very practical way to measure your marketing is to test a small campaign and see how many responses you receive. For instance, you can send a direct mailing out to a small sub-section of your market, and include a custom URL for your website and a unique call tracking number. Then, using Google Analytics for your web results and a phone call tracking service for phone inquiries, you can measure the response you got from that direct mail. If you don’t get much response, you’ll know that you need to tweak things before going “all out.”

So, has this post brought to mind any “problem areas” you and your staff are facing? If so, I hope you’ve gained some insight into facing those challenges, and if you identify with any of these warning signs, let us know! We’ll strategize ways to make your phone call system more efficient and help your business.

What methods do you use to eliminate barriers to greater productivity?

7 Deadly Sins Of Email Marketing Campaigns

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How often do you spend more than three seconds glancing at each of the emails in your inbox? For me, after I’ve scanned and made mental notes of the important personal- or work-related correspondence, I ruthlessly “move to trash” almost all of the other emails I’ve received, sentencing them to an eternal purgatory in cyberspace.

Yet, research shows "89 percent of marketers consider email important to achieving their business goals.” It takes something remarkable to catch most people’s attention and get us to open, read and then act on an email campaign. As I scanned through my spam and trash folders, I noticed seven deadly sins most of these email campaigns committed. Here are seven sure ways to commit cardinal email marketing sins, and the steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Send out too many emails.

We’ll call this one a toss-up between envy; gluttony, over-indulgence to the point of waste; and lust, defined in part as an intense desire for money, wealth, food, fame or power. In this case, a marketer’s intense desire to tell his customers about something he thinks they will love---and purchase---grows into a barrage of emails sent all day and night. If a reader’s not expecting multiple emails per day, seven days a week, he or she is going to be annoyed. Don’t let that unsubscribe button tempt a potential customer! Instead, be transparent about how often you’re going to contact your customers from the get-go. While there’s no magic number that will guarantee the perfect reach, take time to research what your audience expects and wants. Which leads us to the second deadly sin of email campaigns...

2. Don’t treat people like people.

What we want to avoid here is the pitfall of pride, or the failure to acknowledge others. Don’t treat your audience like text-reading machines. Delight them with your understanding of their wants. Knowing your audience is a key component to successful email campaigns, so for the purposes of our example, we’ll think about pride in the sense that we have to understand what the customer wants, not what we think they want.

Did you know that 40 percent of people say they enjoy receiving marketing emails from their favorite brands? Or that 77 percent of consumers prefer marketing communications through email? Those statistics are proof that treating people like people and giving them the information they want in entertaining, engaging ways, leads to success.

Even not-so-good news presented in a thoughtful manner can boost your return in email marketing. Just recently, one of my favorite home design retailers found itself in a situation that required a massive recall of merchandise due to claims of plagiarism from one of its suppliers. I happened to preorder some of the items that were recalled, and I was pretty disappointed to find out my order would be cancelled. In the email I received, the situation was clearly explained and cancelled orders adequately apologized for. Additionally, the company went above and beyond, linking to its blog, where it provided a longer explanation of the situation and why it chose to respond the way it did. I was impressed by the brevity of the email, which got to the point, paired with the link to the company’s blog, which gave customers the option to find out as much as they wanted to know. Despite being disappointed by not getting the product I wanted, I ended up browsing the website again (and actually making another purchase!). That's good email marketing despite a tough situation!

3. and 4. Write a boring subject line and yawn-inducing copy.

Check out this statistic: 64 percent of people say they open an email because of its subject line. That means almost two-thirds of your readers are making their decisions based on the first hundred-or-so characters they see. Your subject line is not the place to get lazy (sloth). Work hard here, and you give your email campaign one of the best advantages it can have.

Here are some tips about designing a well-performing subject line:

Once you’ve crafted an awesome subject line, be innovative in your email body copy. Make sure it’s aligned with the subject, and use appropriate visuals to highlight the content. And keep your copy succinct.

5. Forget to focus on your call to action.

Customers don’t want to click delete wondering “what’s the point?”. Give them a suggestion of how they should respond, and create a sense of urgency. Here are some suggestions for drawing focus to your call-to-action:

  • Design it to stand out from the rest of the body copy.

  • Use action-oriented language (verbs like “get” and “claim,” for example).

  • Reiterate the call-to-action in case it’s missed the first time your potential customer scans through.

  • Engage, but don’t alienate. This article cautions not to let your call-to-action morph into pushiness.

6. Make it impossible to unsubscribe.

Does it surprise you that one of the deadly sins I’m comparing this to is anger? Probably not! If you’ve spent any amount of time searching for that tiny button, only to be forced to click through four separate screens before receiving a message that may or may not confirm you’ve successfully unsubscribed, you get it. Don’t get greedy and pass that frustration on to your potential customers.

Though we don’t want any our audience to unsubscribe, it’s required. Use the unsubscribe button as a learning experience.

  • Provide more than one subscription option. Maybe the reader wants your emails, just not as frequently. Maybe they’re only interested in one type of email you’re sending. Don’t let a potential customer quit cold turkey because they couldn’t just subscribe to fewer emails.

  • When appropriate, show your reader you’re sad they’re leaving. Tell them they’re valuable to you, and you want them to remain subscribed.

  • Ask for feedback. Find out what on your website or in your business is not working for your target audience so you can make changes if needed.

7. Forget to say thanks.

Say thank you to your audience. Whether that’s a literal “thanks!” or an incentive for responding to a survey, an sincere attempt at showing appreciation is one small, but important, detail that separates you from everyone else.

Now that you know what not to do, and have some options for what to try instead, you’re almost ready to press send. Just make sure you are tracking what’s working and what needs to be adjusted in your email marketing campaigns. You can even get a specific call tracking number to see if your campaign is generating a great response. Good luck, and keep on testing!

Now you tell us: what’s the best email campaign you’ve been seen lately?

Why You Shouldn't Post Your Phone Number on Craigslist

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The things I’ve bought and sold on Craigslist reads like a veritable Christmas list: guitar amp, video game system, vintage toy collection, several board games, assorted furniture; it seems like if you're looking for (or looking to get rid of) something, you can eventually do it on Craigslist.

Whether it’s locating that hard-to-find item at an unbelievable price or making a handful of cash from something that was gathering dust in the basement, every transaction I make through the website leaves me with a smile on my face and the belief that Craigslist is one of the coolest things on the internet.

But there is a darker side to Craigslist that all buyers and sellers need to be aware of: some Craigslist creepers are looking to scam you, steal from you and possibly even bring harm to you. That may sound alarmist, but a quick Google search returns story after story of users who find themselves in the midst of annoying, and even unsafe, situations.

The reality of what lurks online can be frightening, but guess what? You don’t have to close the website, shut down your computer, close your curtains and keep storing your dust-collecting stuff in your basement! A few common and not-so-common sense precautions can make your Craigslist experiences both safe and profitable.

Here are three very simple steps you can take that can help protect you as a Craigslist user:

1. Stay Anonymous

The first and best way to protect yourself from Craigslist scammers is by eliminating any chance of them knowing who you are.

Kent Davidson’s blog post does an excellent job summarizing how and why you should keep your private information off Craigslist. He recommends that the first step you should take is to use the remailer option when creating as well as when responding to advertisements. Keep your personal email out of strangers’ hands by following his advice, and you won’t have to worry about random spamming or having your email address mass-mailed to a stranger’s 500 email contacts.

Also, in your ad and/or response, don’t share any private, personal information. Things like not sharing your address and full name are no-brainers, right? But you should also be cautious of sharing your phone number on Craigslist! Automated phishing tools can easily collect your number, and scammers search specifically for this kind of information. Spelling out the digits of your phone number on Craigslist doesn’t protect you, either; what if you give your (spelled out) number to some unscrupulous buyer who doesn’t like the product after the transaction? That person can now use your phone number to harass you, and if your number is a landline, they can even locate you.

In most situations, you have to provide a contact phone number, so the best solution is to put a unique number in your Craigslist postings that won’t get trolled later. This number acts as a mask that protects your real information from Craigslist creeps but still gets you the calls, so you can buy and sell without worry. It’s both convenient and easy to set up your unique number with TeleCapture, too.

2. Be Careful When and Where You Choose To Meet

Make it difficult for someone to take advantage of you. As much as possible, arrange meetings in a familiar, well-lit, busy public locations. When at all possible, avoid meeting at your home or business, and avoid meeting at night. This post on Craigslist safety suggests using an app like BuddyGuard to keep you a bit safer, too. Finally, trust your instincts. Don’t do business with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or who pressures you, and always bring someone else along.

3. Pay With Cash

It’s way too easy to get scammed with checks, money wires, and other fake payments. Cash is king! For small purchases, insist on cash only. If you’re buying a larger item, Paypal is recommended as a safer resource that requires only an email address. Where money and strangers are involved, it’s so important to keep yourself safe, so keep the above tips in mind, too.

Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry. These tips will help protect you and keep your money secure when you find that awesome deal or decide it’s time to sell that antique pinball machine that hasn’t been used in decades. It only makes sense to do everything you can to protect your privacy online, so contact us to find out more about getting a unique number for your Craigslist buying and selling.

Let us know... what’s the craziest thing you’ve bought or sold on Craigslist?

Why Storing Phone Records Off-Site Matters For Your Business

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"How can I grow my business?"

It’s a question you’ve no doubt considered quite a bit (and maybe “quite a bit” is even an understatement!). As an entrepreneur, you’re interested in making the most of the limited time and resources you have. So what are some concrete things you can do to maximize your investments so you can successfully grow your company?

According to international sales expert and New York Times best-selling author Grant Cardone, there’s a five-point process that answers that question. Cardone says the first two “keys” to growing your business are to delegate and pick your battles.

In other words, success comes down to realizing you can’t do it all.

You have to cut through the noise, figure out what tasks represent the 20 percent with the greatest leverage and focus on those tasks. Find those projects that make a big impact and ignore EVERYTHING else.

Sure, it sounds good to say you can ignore everything else. But what about those leftover tasks that simply must be done? As one prescient commenter put it, “when you can't do it all, you can still have someone else do it for you anyways,” thereby harnessing the strengths of others to accomplish even more.

Here’s an example:

Dr. Clean, a local dentist, recently ran a series of promotions that, thanks to precise marketing, have phones ringing off the hook. For the past month, his office staff has been inundated with calls, which has led to more booked appointments and excellent feedback from clients.

Dr. Clean and his staff are thrilled about this, but he can tell that he’s pulling his staff, equipment and himself in too many directions. His staff is so busy recording data that appointments aren’t getting made and many of the leads the promotions generated are going elsewhere.

And, in the midst of all of the good news, his office manager realizes that the hard drives that store all of the recorded data are working slower than usual and have started crashing.

Dr. Clean’s case is a prime example of the importance and value of delegating a task that can be done best by someone else; in this case, Dr. Clean can save himself and his staff a lot of time and potentially make much more profit by storing their phone records off-site.

What exactly is off-site call storage?

All off-site storage means is that someone else houses and organizes your phone records and data in their facility instead of having it take up time and space in your office.

Simple enough, but why is off-site storage important?

For business owners, having experts secure and manage their phone and data records off-site has several benefits.

  • Off-site phone record storage is secure. Compared to doing-it-yourself, the security benefits of off-site call record storage are huge. Your records are localized, easy to access, and completely protected from things like hard drive crashes, security lapses, and emergency scenarios (like fire, flood or other disaster). Experts trained in storage handle your files, so you don’t have to worry about files being misplaced or lost, and detailed recovery plans are in place in the case that something out of the ordinary does happen.

  • Off-site phone record storage is convenient. One of the benefits of off-site call record storage is that it gives you and your employees complete access and control to your files without the hassle of managing files and equipment in-house. Easy access to your data gives you near instant, up-to-date information, plus the benefit that you or your employees don’t have to spend precious time on tasks that take away from your bottom line.

  • Off-site phone record storage can boost your bottom line. Most importantly, storing phone records off-site can improve your productivity and give you and your employees more time to do the work that makes a difference. By trusting experts to handle your off-site phone recording storage, you can dedicate your time to doing what you are an expert in. Does’t it make sense to focus your talents on what you do best and leave the small but important details, like off-site storage, to a company who does that best?

If you’re wondering how you can get off-site phone record storage for your phone records or have a few more questions, get started by live-chatting with a representative on the TeleCapture website, or drop us a line here. We’ll share with you more about how TeleCapture can give you insight into customer phone calls to help your team close more business.

In the mean time, tell us: what’s one benefit you’ve found to storing your phone records off-site?

4 Reasons Why Call Recording For Your Business Is A No-Brainer

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What’s the longest time you’ve spent on the phone with a customer? Zappos, the shoe company famous for customer service, broke an in-company record after one customer service rep stayed on the phone with a customer for, drumroll please, 10 hours and 29 minutes! (Here’s what the conversation evolved into, if you’re curious.)

In a statement about that call, Zappos Customer Loyalty Team supervisor Jeffrey Lewis said the rep was doing exactly what she should have been doing, noting that “Zappos’s first core value is to deliver wow through service.”

And isn’t “delivering wow through service” the goal of every phone conversation with a customer, no matter how long the conversation lasts? Of course it is! One of the ways Zappos delivers this outrageous service is through call recording.

You know how easy it is to record your incoming calls, but maybe you’re still looking for a few reasons why you should go ahead and do it. Like in the story above, the benefits of call recording come down to improving the customer’s experience so you can make your business better.

So, let’s break down the benefits of call recording.

1. Make monitoring your staff simple with call recording.

Customer service representatives in a typical call center or small business often have the highest attrition and least compensation of all employees. This doesn’t lend itself to stellar service, but call recording makes it easy to ensure accountability and improve customer service. Even more importantly, call recording provides a means of recognizing and rewarding your employees who go above and beyond to do great work and provide exceptional customer service.

Michael Hyatt, New York Times bestselling author and former chairman CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, recently shared this eye-opening experience on turning bad customer experiences into wow experiences on his blog.

After reading the article, you probably have one of two reactions: “I totally know how he feels... I’ve been there myself!” or “I can’t believe the problem took that long to solve!” After a call with an annoyed-sounding customer service representative left him feeling “powerless and frustrated,” a review of the phone call (over Twitter) by a second representative offered a reasonable solution to the problem the first rep did little to remedy. Then, to solidify a good experience, the technician who actually came to the site to repair the problem did an exceptional job.

Hyatt says,

“Frank (the second rep) and Jeremy’s (the technician) response wowed me. (...) Frank’s initiative—just one person—turned my not-wow experience into a wow experience. And now his action is forever digitally enshrined in my blog.”

This is a perfect example of the value of call recording. The company was able to ensure accountability, and hopefully, recognize two employees whose actions upheld the company’s reputation and renewed a relationship with a close-to-bolting customer. Hopefully, the company will also take steps to re-train the first representative who answered the call!

2. Call recording is an invaluable tool for training new employees.

Take a look back at the example I just shared. What else should the company do with that entire recorded exchange? Why not use it to improve the likelihood that all future representatives will answer with Frank’s service-oriented attitude by implementing it as a training tool?

With call recording, you can provide a real-life situation in a simulated environment. You have actual examples with which you can coach new employees without the anxiety of pairing an inexperienced representative with a live (and perhaps agitated) customer. By setting the bar high for your newest employees at the beginning, you’ll have to deal with less enforcing and get the opportunity to do more rewarding. And that’s a win-win for both you and your employees.

3. Call recording is the ultimate record-keeping method for customer service.

In situations where multiple parties have to be involved in a response, call recording gives you the play-by-play of each interaction and recommendation at every level. From the service improvement angle, call recording gives you the benefit and insight of hearing what your customers are actually saying about your business. You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it but the customer’s, letting you know firsthand what’s working and what’s not.

Though we’d all rather avoid a situation that causes problems to begin with, when people solve a problem well, the experience could be a megaphone for the stop-at-nothing lengths your company will go to keep your customers yours.

The brilliant Seth Godin says it like this:

“Everyone on the staff ought to be focused on getting something started, not over with. A relationship that might last for many stays. An engagement that might lead to conversations that spread. Trust that might surface new opportunities for both sides.”

Call recording can provide you the basic tool you need to make this kind of remarkable service happen.

4. Know exactly what was said and who said it, leaving just the facts.

Call recording makes identifying sales transactions as easy as replaying a conversation. In a legal sense, this makes verifying everything from reviewing disputed sales to enforcing codes and regulations clear. It also provides evidence and context, if necessary, for sticky situations and can prove that what you said actually happened and give you peace of mind.

It’s as simple as that: a pleased customer, a thriving company with an excellent reputation, and your peace of mind, all because you chose to make use of recording your incoming calls.

So, given the benefits of call recording and how easy it is to start recording your incoming calls, what are you waiting for?

5 Email Marketing Tips: The Composition Of A Victorious Campaign

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How many marketing emails do you get in a day? 10? 20? More? I guess the real question is: how many do you actually read? I know I skim through the titles and if something catches my eye, I might read one... maybe two. Then I delete the rest without a second thought. Being in marketing, it's sad for me to think about all the hard work that's just going straight into cyberspace trash. And when I think about it that way, I feel extremely cold-hearted for not giving most of the emails a "chance."

It makes me wonder... would I cold-heartedly delete your marketing email? Would you cold-heartedly delete your marketing email?

Here's a reality check: Cold-heartedness has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with whether what you're sending is actually worth reading.

These five email marketing tips can help steer you in the right direction and make your campaign a victorious one.

1. Give your reader something valuable. Don't send to sell... send to educate, entertain, or inspire.

This starts with a change in mentality. Based on your business, either educating, entertaining or inspiring will all take you a lot further with your customers or clients than a straight-sell. In fact, the folks at HubSpot say you should balance the content of your newsletter to be 90% educational and 10% promotional. Offering information of value (for free) to your reader will build rapport and credibility.

Christine Comaford of businessweek.com says this:

Sales is about building rapport, not breaking it. When you sell or pitch, you're often breaking rapport because the prospect may be skeptical; no one wants to be "sold." When you educate, you are building rapport. Your credibility is increased significantly when you begin meetings with data that is of value to the prospect. Launch all your meetings by teaching your prospect something or by offering data that establishes that you've done your homework.

Think about it from a personal perspective. Do you want to be "pitched" over and over again? No way. Those are the emails that get really annoying; the ones we unsubscribe from. Even if the sender is a business where you frequently shop, it becomes monotonous to see an email in your inbox everyday telling you to "buy, buy, buy."

For example, I have a favorite home decor store. I want to be subscribed to their email list because I'm a big fan. But (I'm not exaggerating), every single day I get an email with a sales pitch. The thing is, I do want to know about their sales. But I'm seriously contemplating opting out, because I'm just not sure if I can stand it anymore.

What would their email content look like in a perfect world? What would I love getting in my inbox? (Not just: what would I tolerate?) I really, really wish they would send me something to educate or inspire me! One of my hobbies is decorating my home, so tips, before and after room makeovers, inspirational design... I would be reading (and enjoying) those emails every single day. In that circumstance, I'm happy and so are they. Not only are they keeping their name in front of me, but I become much more loyal to them as well. (And much more likely to follow that link to their latest collection.)

2. Only send if you have something to say.

Don't send an email every week just because you think you need to have a "weekly newsletter." If you don't have any new content (or anything interesting to share), just forego the email. Sending "just to send" will ruin the credibility you've established in step #1. Readers can tell when you're faking it. They aren't stupid.

(Speaking of that...)

3. Keep it simple, stupid.

"Great advice... hurts my feelings every time." (As Dwight Schrute would say.)

You're only going to capture your reader's attention for a few seconds. So, make sure that's all it takes for them to get to the meat of why you're sending your email in the first place. Everything about your email should be "skimmable." This goes for both design and copy.

Design

There are tons and tons of promotional email templates out there. (MailChimp has more than you could ever need.) Just make sure you don't go overboard on your design. The more sections and graphics you add to your email, the longer you're asking your reader to look at it, and the more confusing it could become. Just make sure you know where you want the reader's eye to hit first, second, and so forth, and then choose your template accordingly.

"Keeping it simple" will mean different things for different companies, so make sure you decide what your purpose is before determining your layout.

Some advice that spans all companies, though, is making sure that your call to action (whatever it may be) is clearly defined. This article describes the "squint test." If you can squint at the email you're creating and your "call to action" (maybe a link, button or phone number) stands out, then you're good to go. If you squint and it blurs into the rest of the email, then you should reevaluate.

Copy

Instead of writing long paragraphs, or verbose sentences, try to keep everything brief.

Here's some great advice I heard once. Write out your "long" version and get out everything you want to say. Then, pretend like you have to explain that same thing to someone in 150 words or less. It may take a little longer, but it helps you organize your thoughts, which makes it easier to write that shorter email copy.

4. Create an enticing subject line.

If you get everything right, but this wrong, I hate to say it, but all your hard work will have been in vain. Creating an enticing subject line is just as important as everything else. It acts as gateway between the reader and your content. Your marketing email can't be a success if no one opens it!

You might think you need to get your creative juices going, but actually, clarity is more important than creativity. This research firm did a study comparing "clear" titles (explanatory) and "creative" titles (catchy and clever). The "clear" titles got more clicks and social likes by a long shot!

For example, that same research firm walked through creating a subject line for a business's grand opening event.

A subject line shouldn’t give away all of the information inside. Instead, it should clearly explain what that information is about.

For example, if a tea shop were celebrating a new location’s grand opening, its email’s subject line wouldn’t read, “Tea Party at 4 p.m., 9/12/12 at 8 Main St.”

That’s not clarity, it’s throwing itself at readers.

And, it wouldn’t read, “The Mad Hatter on Main.” That’s creative, but it doesn’t tell subscribers what they’ll find inside at all.

Instead, it might read, “Your Invitation to Our Grand Opening Tea Party.”

See the difference? Here are 10 Awesome Headlines that Drive Traffic and Attract Readers from Jeff Bullas to get you started on your quest to that perfect subject line.

5. Know your analytics and always keep testing.

There are all kinds of ways to track opens, clicks and statistics about your email campaigns. Any email marketing service provider can help you with those. You can even get a specific call tracking number for your campaign to see if it's generating the response you want. Just make sure you're always evaluating and reevaluating what you're sending and the response it's getting. Then you can make sure you're always putting your best effort into the areas that work.

What things have you discovered that have made your email marketing campaigns successful?

Should You Advertise In The Yellow Pages?

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My family recently moved to a town in the rural Midwest. The first time I’d ever been to this town was our moving day, and I knew exactly two other people in town: my husband and toddler. After a thousand-mile trip, we were ready to settle in and enjoy our first meal in our new home: a box of pizza. I didn’t know any of the pizza places, and certainly not how to contact them, so I grabbed my phone and did what I always did: searched the web. To my surprise, and for the first time in my life, Google failed me. The only results were from the city 30 miles away.

Then, I remembered the yellow phone book our landlord left in the kitchen. I opened it up, determined not to let my small family starve, and saw multiple pizza places listed in the Yellow Pages. I sighed, relieved to know we might make it through our first day and thankful for the pizza on its way.

That was actually the first time I had used the Yellow Pages. But since we’ve been here, I have thumbed through the pages dozens of times to find out contact information for our local bakery, to compare quotes at our appliance repair shops, and on one sub-zero night last winter when my husband was out of town, to ask an HVAC repair man how to re-light our pilot light.

The Main Advantage

According to this article, my story is common among consumers making ready-to-buy decisions, especially in non-urban areas.

"It's the true local, local buying decision resource," said Ken Clark, YP Talk publisher. "When you get into tier two and tier three markets with smaller towns, you may not even get a mobile signal, so print Yellow Pages is still an ingrained way of life."

The Yellow Pages have the distinct advantage of being delivered to everyone in a community, guaranteeing your ad reaches its target audience. They’ve been used successfully to advertise restaurants (like in the story I shared above), medical services, legal services and repair and maintenance shops. The scope of Yellow Page advertising has also grown from the traditional phone book-only to offerings including digital and direct mail advertising options and limited call-tracking features.

Admittedly, I only used Yellow Pages a few times since my family moved. Once I became familiar with my new home, I didn’t need the book as much. I’m still much more likely to search the web than I am to pull out the phone book, and it seems I’m not alone. Research across all markets shows that Yellow Page advertising effectiveness isn’t black and white.

A Few Perceived Drawbacks

Many business owners (76 percent according to Yelp) think yellow page phone books are irrelevant and can’t help their business.

Yellow Page advertising is expensive! Making your ad stand by increasing ad size, or hiring someone to design the ad, for example, compounds that cost.

Many business owners don’t want to publish in a printed phone book when they can spend less marketing online and, in many cases, yield better results. Research shows that most consumers do an internet search first (80 percent of the time) when compared to looking through the Yellow Pages.

Pay-per-call advertising isn't as great as it sounds. As I mentioned earlier, Yellow Pages offers pay-per-call advertising, which sounds good, until you take a closer look. With this service, customers are assigned a call tracking number and pay on a per-call basis, usually between $15-20 per call, if the call lasts longer than 12 seconds, which Yellow Pages considers a substantial lead. The drawbacks are pretty obvious: can you really count any 12-second call as a lead? The only way you'd know is if you were able to record the calls to see what those customers were actually saying, which assigned call tracking numbers from Yellow Pages don’t allow. But consider this: if you were to advertise normally in the Yellow Pages and get your own call tracking number specifically for that purpose, it’d be much easier to identify if your Yellow Page ads were successful, because you'd know both how many people were calling your specific number and you’d be able to go back and listen to those calls to determine if they were new customers or not.

You’re stuck with your Yellow Page ad for a year. Because it is a printed book, you can’t change your ad, or remove it altogether, if any component changes. Similarly, if your ad isn’t generating the leads you expected, you can’t stop advertising and reallocate that part of your budget.

So, should you?

Ultimately, deciding if you should advertise in the yellow pages comes down to strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the Yellow Page advertising question.

If you’re in a market like mine, Yellow Pages could be successful for you. If you do decide to advertise in the Yellow Pages, using a unique call tracking number can help you determine whether your Yellow Page ad is actually working for your business and allow you to adjust your marketing plan accordingly (instead of paying more for a service that will actually cost you more and give you less information!).

Or, maybe, according to research you’ve done on your target market, you’ve found you’re better off utilizing a different marketing mix. And that’s great, too, if it’s growing your business!

Have you advertised in the Yellow Pages? What has your experience been?

What Is A Call Tracking Number & Why Should I Care?

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Would you mail a valuable package without a tracking number? I know I wouldn't. If I can know where it is, when it's going to get there, (and, if I sold something on eBay, when I can get my money), I'm willing to fork out a few extra cents for the tracking option. All those details are valuable to me. They put me at ease and help me plan for the future. So, let's switch gears a little... what about your advertising dollars? Are they valuable?

Of course they are.

Then I guess the real question is, why wouldn't you track those dollars to see where they're going?

So, what is a call tracking number?

Simply put? A "call tracking number" is a unique local or toll-free phone number that you can use to help you determine the return on investment (ROI) that you're getting from your advertising. It forwards to your regular business phone number, so when people call they're getting your business on the other end.

Here's an example.

Dr. Clean

Dr. Clean is a dentist who's planning to put advertisements for his dental practice on the radio, in the local newspaper and on television. He's a really smart guy, which means he knows he doesn't want to waste money on useless ads. So he buys three different phone numbers (that all forward to his office phone) to use as call tracking numbers for the ads: one for the radio spot, one for the newspaper ad, and one for the television commercial.

After a few weeks of advertising through all three venues, he checks to see which phone numbers have been called the most. Turns out, the phone numbers he put on the newspaper and television ads haven't been getting many calls, which means it's not really worth the money he's using to advertise there. However, the phone number on the radio spots is getting a ton of calls! Now that he knows that information, Dr. Clean decides to pull his newspaper and television ads, and put all his advertising money into radio spots.

But his call tracking efforts definitely aren't over. Now Dr. Clean wants to know what the best time is for his radio spots to play: early morning, lunchtime, or late at night. So he uses three different phone numbers in three different radio spots to test that out.

And the story continues.

Back To Real Life: Why You Should Care

Dr. Clean knows his stuff. He understands the number one reason he should care about call tracking numbers: it keeps you from wasting your hard-earned money on advertising that's not working.

That's the genius of call tracking: it allows you to refine your advertising, so you know each and every one of your dollars is being spent effectively.

And it doesn't stop with radio, tv and newspaper ads. You can use call tracking numbers on anything... even online.

Especially online.

Jeff Bullas, well-known Social Media Marketing Blogger, Strategist & Speaker, says that the often forgotten ingredient in measuring your content marketing online is a call tracking tool.

Call tracking tools enable you to include unique trackable phone numbers in your downloadable and printed content, videos, trade show presentations, emails, ads, and direct mail blasts to measure the calls they generate. Even if a lead visits your web site before calling you, call tracking tools can still tell you how that caller found your site and the web page or blog posts they called from.

The possibilities really are endless.

Start knowing exactly what makes your phone ring.

Don't have a call tracking number yet? TeleCapture can help you with that. You can get started in less than 60 seconds.

Get Your Number Right Now >

The Most Important Rule Of Business Phone Etiquette

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Since you’ve probably already guessed from the picture above, I’ll just come right out and say it:

The most important rule of business phone etiquette? Smiling.

But before you stop reading because that’s such a simple answer, let me challenge you with one task: Ask yourself this question... and answer it honestly.

Do I smile on the phone every time I talk to a customer? Do my employees?

The answer is probably no. As fundamental as this is, I’m shocked at how many businesses don’t implement this into their training or really think about it at all.

I wonder, would they make it a priority—would you make it a priority—if you knew that smiles converted into dollars?

Yeah, I thought so, too. Read on.

Smiling = Friendly Tone

Smiling instantly changes the tone of your voice from mundane and straight, to warm and friendly. The physical act of smiling moves your vocal cords in a way that impacts how you sound. Smiling changes your tone so dramatically that classically-trained vocalists are taught not to smile when they sing! (I guess they aren’t going for warm and friendly.)

Listen to this. It's proof that you can hear the difference!

Without Smiling [audio non-smiling-call.mp3]

With Smiling [audio smiling-call.mp3]

Friendly Tone = Emotional Connection

So, why is tone so important? Because the tone you take with customers can literally determine the difference between sale and no sale or good experience and bad experience. Here’s what Judith Filek, President of Impact Communications, has to say about it.

“The tone of your voice either makes or breaks you when you are conducting business over the phone. People can’t see that you are competent and knowledgeable. What they use to assess your credibility on the phone is your tone of voice.”

 

Emotional Connection = Doing Business

Establishing a friendly relationship with customers in general is absolutely critical to business. Did you know that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated (McKinsey)? That’s a huge percentage. This article sums it up really well.

“Studies show that most customers will make a purchase based more on their emotional connection to the product and company, rather than making a decision based solely on logic and even need. When companies are able to relate to their customers on a more personal level, this can often translate to higher sales...There is no doubt that friendlier service can be as good for your bottom line as it is for your customer’s satisfaction.”

And all that can stem back to a simple smile? You’re probably ready to smile til your cheeks fall off right now.

(Skeptical about emotional connection leading to purchasing? There are all kinds of articles out there supporting it. Try reading this one about chickens.)

Doing Business = Customer Loyalty

Let's take this a step further. Doing something as simple as smiling can make your business stand out. And standing out can lead not only to sales, but to something even better—loyal customers.

How many companies can you think of that you would consider to have exemplary and superior customer service? I can think of maybe three. (And that’s out of the hundreds of companies I’ve had interaction with in the past couple of years.)

In the extended version of this Time Magazine article, Brad Tuttle says this.

“Smart businesses should come to realize that the customer service bar is lower, and that today, it’s easier than ever to differentiate your company from the pack with (crazy as it seems) actual quality customer service.”

It’s so true! It doesn’t take much to stand out in a world of mediocrity. Smiling on every phone call could instantly take your business to the next level. Customers notice things like that. And when they start wishing every other company treated them like you do, you've got the secret recipe to loyalty! The best part about that is, you have customers that will do business with you over and over again, and they'll tell their friends about you. A lot of benefits from a very simple thing. Pretty convincing argument that you should smile, huh?

This ancient Chinese proverb sums things up pretty well. (If they got it thousands of years ago, it's about time we get it today!)

"A man without a smiling face must not open a shop."

What has been your experience with smiling (or not smiling) over the phone? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Direct Mail Marketing - Flushing Money Down The Toilet?

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Is Direct Mail Marketing Effective Or Is It A Colossal Waste?

"I sent out a boatload of postcards, and you know what? I only got 3 or 4 calls. What a !@#$%^* waste! Direct mail marketing is a rip-off."

I heard my real estate friend utter these words with obvious frustration about his latest direct mail advertising campaign. (Yeah, I'm pretty intuitive about stuff like that.) He just wasted a ton of money for nothing. That's about the worst feeling in the world if you own your own business.

My friend's not the only one feeling a little disillusioned with direct mail. I've heard similar stories from plenty of other business owners and the tune all sounds the same. Sent out a bajillion postcards, and nada, and so on and so on.

From just this sampling of my personal experiences, you might conclude that direct mail marketing simply doesn't work in 2013.

The Lowly Dodo Bird - Image by Daniel Eskridge (danieleskridge.com)

But, if direct mail advertising has gone the way of the Dodo bird, then why do I keep getting direct mail from huge, incredibly successful companies every week offering me some pretty wonderful stuff? Are the big boys just so loaded with cash that they can afford to flush it down the toilet? Do they succeed just by the sheer repetition of their brand?

Of course, there are the expected players in the direct mail marketing game, Land's End sends me their catalogs, Capital One wants me to get their special credit card, the local Chinese place wants to give me free chicken fried rice on Thursdays, and so forth, but I got a piece the other day that took me by surprise. It wasn't the design, or the offer that startled me. It was the company that sent me the little white envelope.

Google.

Google uses direct mail.

Wait a minute. If a tech-only company like Google, with the vast powers of the internet at its disposal is using direct mail, maybe we should take a second and peek behind the curtain a little and see what's going on.

As it turns out, about 9 out of 10 companies surveyed in 2012 rank direct mail marketing as their number one marketing channel (hat tip). Read that again. Nine out of ten! Companies like Disneyland, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Google, are all spending considerable effort on their direct mail advertising campaigns (more). In fact, United States advertisers like these guys spend an average of $167 per person on direct mail. Yes, my list is comprised of huge companies with plenty of money to burn, but they are also profit-driven companies. If a marketing tactic doesn't benefit the bottom line, it's thrown out the window.

Here's what they know: compared to all other marketing efforts, their direct mail campaigns have the highest rate of gaining new customers. According to one survey of companies, direct mail reportedly accounted for gaining 1 in every 3 new clients, dwarfing the runner-up, email, and blowing away the much-loved channel of search engine marketing.

Let that sink in for just a second.

Far from the mantras you may have heard that "print is dead," direct mail seems quite alive and well. Surprised?

How effective is direct mail, then?

DM News reports that in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4 percent for both B2B and B2C mailings, which actually surprised them a little as well. Now, let me clarify a few things. As far as I can tell, based on the wording, this result is for direct mail of all kinds, some of which gets pretty creative. This isn't just the ubiquitous postcard, or the spammy "Open to see what you've won" kind of stuff. I'm guessing there are sweet boxes, packages, and genius type stuff, that most of us simply aren't going to be able to replicate. Also, this measures responses. At this point, we're not discussing the actual "conversion rate" of turning a prospect into a customer. Still. That's nothing to sneeze at.

Let's talk possibilities.

What if you could manage just a 2 percent response rate for your direct mail marketing campaign? Would you feel like you're flushing money down the toilet then?

Let's walk through the costs and returns of a small-ish direct mail campaign. In terms of cost, we need to determine how much you'll spend to get one customer. That's called Acquisition Cost.

I wanted to make this exercise as close to real numbers as possible, so I did my pricing at PostCardMania.com. (Of course, these numbers can vary widely, so don't send me hate mail if my numbers are off a little.)

Let's say you decide to do a mailing of 2,500 large format postcards (6" x 8").

Large Format Postcard - Direct Mail Marketing

You'll need to purchase a list from a data company, ballpark it at $100. The prices vary depending on the kind of data you need.

Then, your postcards will cost $600 to print them, about $625 to mail them, and $125 for address printing (unless you're a masochist and want to put all the labels on by hand),

Your total is about $1,650. So, for 2,500 cards, your cost per unit is $.66.

So, how many customers can you get?

If you can generate a 2% response rate, that means that you'll hear from 50 people from your direct mail efforts.

If you close the deal with 60% of them, that means 30 new customers for your business. So, you spent $1,650 to get 30 customers.

Your Acquisition Cost per customer is $55 each.

Schweww. You tired of math yet? No, I didn't think so. As a business owner, you are acutely aware that you have to do the math if you're going to succeed.

So, let's see if we're making good use of our advertising dollars.

At first, you may think that $55 per customer is way too much money to spend on a customer. And I guess it is, if you're selling a $2 product that your customer will only buy once. That's why we need to do one more set of calculations to figure out how much one customer is worth to you.

Let's call this the Lifetime Value of a Customer.

In a nutshell, to calculate the lifetime value of a customer, start with the average amount of a purchase.

Let's keep it simple and say that you're selling one product for $50.

Further, let's pretend that on average a customer will purchase from you twice each year.

At this point, you could calculate how much value your customer has per year, so all we need to do is dip into your books and make a rough determination of how many years your customers continue to do business with you. For our example, let's say the average is about 5 years.

That means that your the lifetime value of your customer is $100 x 5 years = $500. (I like round numbers like that).

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So, let's recap. You spent $55 per customer, and a customer is worth $500 to your business. Just divide your lifetime value of a customer by your acquisition cost and you've got your return.

ROI On Direct Mail Marketing

You've made 909% return on your investment. Not bad at all. Spending $1,650 on your direct mail campaign will bring $15,000 worth of business over the next 5 years.

Direct mail clearly works in this scenario!

Now, before you rush out and start direct mailing every living thing, let's talk about a few strategies that will help you make this response rate a reality.

1. Define your audience.

Spend time figuring out who you need to talk to. Don't settle for a shotgun approach. That's what led my friend to his awful response rate. He simply didn't define his audience clearly. Once you have your audience defined, work with a list data company to create the right list for talking to that audience. Be willing to spend more for a highly targeted list.

2. Match your offer to your audience.

If you're going to spend money to talk to your audience, make sure you're saying something that they need to hear in order to respond. In other words, if you're going to make an offer that they need to respond to, make sure it's something they want. I know that seems pretty obvious, but it's surprising how often that basic element is overlooked.

Be sure to make an offer that's actually special, and not something lame. It's important that your offer have a deadline as well, so your customers won't set it aside with good intentions of calling you later.

3. Provide multiple ways to respond.

Not everyone responds the same way to an offer. Give your customers several ways to follow up with you.

Create a special landing page on your website, and give it a unique 800 call tracking number, or even a local number. Create a special video that helps further the connection with your future customer and put it on the landing page, along with a contact form and that custom tracking number. That way, you can tell who's coming from which direct mail piece.

Give them a way to mail something in for those who love the mail.

And, of course, make sure you have a unique call tracking number that is a part of the main call to action on your direct mail piece.

4. Test small.

Here's one of the beautiful things about direct mail advertising. You can test a smaller demographic, and see how different messages work. You can send different messages to subsets of your main list. Then, once you've determined the winner, you can go all out with your larger mailing. That's working smart!

5. Track everything.

I hinted at this in point #3, but it's imperative that you track what you're doing with direct mail marketing. Grab a phone call tracking number and then look at the analytics to see which campaign messages worked better than others. If you're going to use landing pages, make sure you create a separate tracking number for your landing pages.

6. Think long-term.

Many of us are looking for "one-hit wonders" that magically deliver customers to us. While direct mail does seem to offer some nice rewards, the best marketing happens consistently. Consider multiple mailings to the same list over a period of time, building on the message you've created.

So, you've done everything you need to generate a great response rate. You won, right?

Well, actually, no. You still have one final task of converting those responses into customers.

That's where it's critical to train those who are answering the phone to get this part right. Your sales team will be the first human interaction those potential customers have with your business, so make sure they know what to do. One powerful way to make sure they're handling this all-important role well is to make sure your recording your sales calls, so you can review each call as needed to see how things were handled.

With all of that wrapped up, you have a successful, effective direct mail campaign on your  hands. Now, get out there and git 'er done!

What are some stories that you can share about how direct mail has worked for you?