10 Creative Advertising Ideas For A Tight Budget

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I recently visited a new local shop I’d been eager to visit since finding out about it through a web search. I knew the store had just opened, and I was really impressed with its selection and how helpful the owners, a mother-daughter duo, were. As I was paying for my purchase, the owner asked me how I’d heard of her shop, and I told her I’d found it online. “Really?” she said, “I just don’t think all that online stuff is going to make that much of a difference, but my daughter said we need to put it out there, so she took care of it. I honestly don’t see what the value is.”

Cue brakes screeching.

Right about then, her daughter chimed in. She said something along these lines: “Mom, how many of the people we’ve talked to have said they’ve found us the exact same way? You can’t say it’s not working. It obviously is.”

They asked me a few more questions about where exactly I saw the promotion for the store. As we wrapped up our conversation, the daughter wrapped up my purchase, stuck in a business card and a flyer with information about an upcoming sale and told me to look for them on several social media sites she actively uses.

Neither woman asked me for my opinion, but if she had, I would have echoed exactly what the daughter said. It is imperative for small business to advertise, not only online, but in as many ways as you can afford to.

In fact, you can't afford not to advertise!

Tom Egelhoff says it this way:

“If there is one mistake small town businesses make more often than any other it's, "What ever is left over, we'll use for advertising. Marketing and advertising is an investment, not an expense. I know it sure seems like an expense to me when I'm writing the check, but trust me it's not. Without enough money put aside for advertising your sales can go down and you suddenly have less and less for promotion."

So, if the idea of sinking a chunk of change in to advertising makes you queasy, relax. There are many methods to effectively advertise on a limited budget as well as tools to measure advertising effectiveness. You can spend a reasonable amount with success, and make sure your advertising budget is doing its job well.

10 Low-Cost, Creative Advertising Ideas

  1. Use the internet! I wanted to tell the shopkeeper whom I spoke with that 85 percent of her potential customers use the internet to find local businesses. She was willing to write all of those potential customers off, but she (and you!) can’t afford to miss out on them! It’s not as costly or as complicated as you may think to utilize this powerful resource. Set up online accounts on your local business directories, and encourage your customers to leave reviews, and you've done your business a major service in just a few steps.

  2. Create a website. Your website should (at least) have your phone number and email address, and, if you own a retail shop, the address of your storefront. Ensure potential customers know exactly where they can find you.

  3. Use social media and location-based services. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and 4Square are all free methods of advertising, and your business doesn’t have to be on every platform. Using just a few of these outlets well can make a difference. In the next three years, more than 179 million people are predicted to use these outlets in North America alone. That’s a lot of potential customers!

  4. Advertise on Google.

  5. Volunteer! Get involved in your community, and position your company in a positive light to those closest to you by showing that you care. You’ll build trust in your brand, you may see that word-of-mouth marketing and referrals increase your business with minimal cash investment. Lead a clean-up day at a local park, or visit a local school and see if there are any ways you can share your time and talents with the students there.

  6. Participate in or donate to local charities. Sponsor a fun run or community event and wear your company T-shirt so attendees can associate you, their friendly neighbor, with the good your business is doing.

  7. Teach a class on business in general or something related to your specific skills. Many community centers, libraries, churches and colleges offer one- or two-session classes that you may be interested in leading. You’ll be able to network with those interested in and involved with your business community, and you’ll be perfectly positioned to share your own successes. You may even learn a few things from your students!

  8. Find out if direct mail is right for you, and if so, use it! According to one IBM study, "selling time can be reduced from 9.3 to 1.3 total hours with direct mail advertising. A Sales and Marketing Executives International Study showed salespeople went from eight orders per 100 cold calls to 38 orders per 100 when direct mail was used." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

  9. Utilize business cards. They're a small-but-mighty tool you probably already have!

  10. Send out press releases to your local newspaper when your business does something new and innovative or exceptional. Keep your content fresh and your headlines catchy, and your local news outlets may do your advertising for you.

Think of this list as a best-of-the-best list of the hundreds of creative advertising ideas on a tight budget. After you implement these ideas, you’ll want to prove their success. Scrutinize their effectiveness by adding a call tracking number to every ad and piece of collateral you hand out or publicize, and then take that information and invest more in the ways that were successful so you can continue to grow your business. Don’t be afraid to try methods you’re unfamiliar with; they may bring in more leads than you expected!

Now it’s your turn. Which of these methods sound most appealing to you? Let us know about the success you’ve had with low-cost, creative advertising ideas!

3 Mistakes You Don't Want To Make In Your Radio Advertising

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I never listen to the radio. At least, that's what I thought when I started writing this.

Then, I started researching facts and figures. And after getting over the astonishment when I read that 93% of people age 12 and older listen to the radio every week, I realized I'm probably exposed to radio more than I think. I started remembering car rides and trips to the grocery store. And then I thought about all the radio ads that I could recall. And I realized, Wow, radio is a part of my life and I didn't even know it!

Radio is just about the most accessible media source out there. You don't have to pay for it. You just have to be able to pick up a signal. So, I guess it's no surprise that so many people are listening in.

So, what does all that mean when it comes to advertising? Check out these facts and figures from the Radio Advertising Bureau.

  • Consumers spend 22% of their total media time with radio.

  • 84% of drivers cite radio as their primary in-car entertainment device.

  • Radio retains more than 93% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks.

The statistics make it seem like it's a worthy marketing channel. My opinion? It absolutely is... as long as you don't make these mistakes.

1. Marketing to "whoever's listening."

One of the biggest mistakes you could possibly make in radio advertising is not thinking about your target audience. Putting a commercial together and scheduling it at the cheapest times available won't get you anywhere.

It's crucial that you think about who you're marketing to and when they'll be listening. Entrepreneur.com has some great tips for pinpointing your audience.

Write a one-sentence target audience profile based on the demographics of your prospects. This should include their age, gender, where they live and other factors, such as household income. Then share this information with the sales reps from the stations you're considering. They'll tell you what percentage of their stations' listeners match these demographics and at what times of the day or during which programming you'll reach your best prospects.

Once you've decided who you're marketing to, create your spot with that target audience profile in mind.

  • What would entertain them?
  • What would grab their attention?
  • What background music should you choose?
  • What gender and what age should the script-reader/actors be?

All of those questions are directly related to your potential customers, so make sure you aren't choosing what to do based on your own preferences. Maybe even polling some people in your target audience would help you figure out your answers.

2. Repeating your call to action over and over... and over (and over) again.

While it could be argued that repeating your phone number or website address helps listeners remember the information, it tends to do more harm than good. (It's actually kind of annoying.)

In his article, Seven Tips For Radio Advertising Success, Paul Suggett makes a good point.

If someone you don't like comes up to you in a bar and gives you their phone number a dozen times, will you call it? On the other hand, if someone is funny, charming, beautiful, or a combination of all three, and they give you their number just once, will you call? Of course. This is about creating interest. Grab their attention, make them want to know more...

Worry less about the call to action, and more about the "meat" of your radio spot. Emphasize your brand and it's benefits. If you succeed in winning the listener over with your "charm," they'll take the necessary action to follow up with your request. In fact, 28.1% of radio listeners initiate online searches based on something they've heard on the radio. (That's a pretty big number, considering that some radio listeners can't even search online until hours later!)

3. Not utilizing some form of analytics to tell you whether or not your ads are working.

If you don't have a call tracking number, or a website address unique to your radio ads, you won't have any idea how your radio marketing is performing. That means you won't know what it's costing you per lead or per click, you won't know whether or not it's worth it to keep running the ads, and most importantly, you won't be able to sleep at night–because you just don't know!

Analytics are your best friend when it comes to spending your advertising money. You can even go so far as to put specific call tracking numbers or website addresses on different ads at different times of the day, so you know which ads perform better. The possibilities really are endless.

So, what's been your experience with radio? What's working for you? What's not? We want to know! Leave us a comment below.

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?

5 Genius Reasons To Use A Toll-Free Number

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Quick: what do you remember about the last three ads you saw or heard? Can you even remember the companies or what they were trying to sell? When I think about how successful a business is in attempting to sell to me, I’ve found that most times, I don’t have a very good memory about the business itself. Whether it’s that I am distracted, or just not immediately drawn to whatever good or service is being advertised, nothing is setting these businesses apart from their competitors. Therefore, my brain skips over the ad, and the company’s message is lost in translation.

But, I’ve noticed that those few ads that really pique my interest have one thing in common: the advertisers plainly, frequently, and often humorously, share how I can reach them if I want to know more. Even more interestingly, this is often done through sharing one small (but important!) piece of information: their toll-free numbers.

Easy, right? And effective, too! Here’s why using a toll-free number means business:

1. Toll-free numbers grab—and keep—your customers’ attention.

Do you remember the opera-singing Vikings who demanded, “It’s my money, and I need it now!” If you’ve seen this ad, then you’re probably humming the tune right now. Or, maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about; if not, check out this video, but beware: it may be stuck in your head for weeks to come!

It’s for a firm called J.G. Wentworth, and the entire gist of the spot is to point their core customer group to calling their toll-free number. According to financial analyst Lance Margolis, “the appropriate combination of quality television commercials and excellent financial services spelled success and national recognition.” But I’m going to go one step further. The ads were catchy not only because of the quality television commercial, as Margolis said, but because of the key pieces of information provided in the 30-second spot.

As ridiculous as the premise of Opera is, the ad is a good example of direct branding, in this case the 877-CASH-NOW phone number, said Carl Marucci, the managing director and senior editor of Radio and Television Business Report.

It was catchy, yes, but also an extremely effective means of sharing a toll-free number that ultimately drove the commercial to viral success: winning national and international awards and, most importantly, driving record inbound phone and web volume to J.G. Wentworth’s sales center.

2. A toll-free number is all about location, location, location; but not like you may think.

With a toll-free number, you can do business anywhere and provide your clients a single toll-free number to use to reach you. If you have team members working from locations across the country, or if you don’t need your customers to know where you’re located geographically, toll-free numbers centralize your business to the customer and signify both a local and nationwide presence.

You own your number, so as your business grows and changes, transferring the toll-free number is easy and automatic; your toll-free number will work wherever you do.

3. The toll-free number you choose is unique to your business needs.

Think back to the earlier J.G. Wentworth example. What set the company’s approach apart from its competitors was knowing its business well enough to utilize its strengths; for instance, its use of the toll-free number 877-CASH-NOW. In choosing its toll-free number, the company not only provided viewers a good experience, but drove people to action in a way that resulted in record-setting business. Toll-free numbers give you the features you need to ultimately improve your bottom line, and they are tailored to your business’ needs with the flexibility to grow over time.

4. Your business’ toll-free number isn’t just digits. With it come the features you need to control and improve your business.

Call tracking data, used in conjunction with your toll-free number, shows how your business is succeeding in its efforts, and also gives you the ability to see how the money and time you’re spending can be used more effectively to share your message. Without excellent data to back up creative messaging, it is purposeless, and, to your company, without value.

5. Authority and Credibility.

It’s true of most relationships in life and absolutely in business: we want to partner with, work alongside, and give our business those we have faith in. Toll-free numbers, on a smaller scale, begin customer relationships well by first establishing trust and convenience. For a smaller company with an excellent reputation but that is relatively unknown, the credibility of a toll-free can draw in customers who may have initially shied away. It then becomes the company’s duty, through top-notch service and product, to leave the customer saying “wow!” and sharing his or her experience with other potential customers.

At first blush, it may seem like an insignificant detail to include a toll-free number as a prominent part of your campaign or branding material. But it’s not! For me, and for many potential customers like me, a toll-free number is that small but significant feature that we remember about your company. Ultimately, a toll-free number has the potential to differentiate you from everyone else and increase business, and therefore, your bottom line!

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).

[gravityform id="2" name="Calculate The Lifetime Value of A Customer" ajax="true"]

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?

How To Improve Customer Service In One Step: Say "Yes!"

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Have you ever noticed that there are yes-people and no-people out there?

When asked a to do something, yes-people tend to try to please, and say, “Yes, I can do that!” (Normally before actually figuring out if they can or not.) Then, they do whatever they can to make sure it happens.

When asked the same question, however, no-people tend to think of all the reasons they can’t do something, and their initial response is, “No, that won’t work.” Some even say no without checking. It’s almost like they have to be coerced to go through a list of options when it comes to getting something done.

In life, there are pros and cons to each.

(In life, that is.)

When it comes down to business, there are really only cons to being a no-person. You don’t want no-people interacting with your customers... period. Never ever.

It’s a big deal. A no-person can single-handedly turn away a customer every time he or she says, “No way.” So not only do you not want it, you can’t afford it.

You really only have one option: becoming a yes-person for your business.

So, what are you? A yes-person or a no-person?

If you’re a no-person (or an in-the-middle-person), becoming a yes-person for your business is going to take some work. But don’t worry, it’s possible. When a customer asks for something, and your first inclination is to say no, don’t panic! Just remember these two things:

The customer isn’t always right... but it’s important to make them feel like they aren’t wrong.

The customer is coming to you for help because they believe that it is your responsibility to take care of their problem, whatever it might be. They already feel like they’re right, and you’re not going to convince them otherwise. So don’t try!

Sometimes all you want is the satisfaction of knowing that someone understands why you did something you did, or why your policies are the way they are. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for that. But resist the urge to defend yourself to customers.

To make this work, you have to do some sacrificing. You have to put the customer above yourself. Remember that it doesn’t matter that the customer walks away understanding your own personal point of view. What matters is that they walk away feeling like you were as helpful as you could possibly be.

Think before you speak, and only say “no" if you have to.

Instead of jumping right in and saying whatever comes out, think first. What can I do to help this customer? Okay, if that won’t work, what else could I do? And so on. Exhaust every option on the list before you say no. Use “no” as a last resort. And even in those circumstances, be creative.

What if you changed your entire customer service model? Shep Hyken, customer service expert, writes about a strict “yes policy” that Ace Hardware has in this brief post.

At Ace Hardware... one of the tactics that many of the retailers have adopted is a concept called “One to Say Yes and Two to Say No. The concept is simple. At Ace, a single associate (employee) can’t just say “No” without exhausting all options. Furthermore, it takes two people to say “No” to the customer. In other words, “No” requires the approval of a manager.

Can you imagine? Having to get a manager’s approval to say no? It’s completely backward from what we’d normally think. But it gets employees to think about every way to say yes, since they know that saying no is against policy.

Being a yes-person doesn’t just make the customer happy... it plays a major role in your business’s future success.

Leadership expert, Dr. Paul Gerhardt, says this...

Saying yes is like an investment that can pay huge dividends in loyalty, productivity, networking, marketing and friendship. It is all about staying positive and helping people know how truly valuable they are to you.

“Yes” leads to trust. Trust leads to loyalty. And loyalty leads to long-time customers.

In what ways have you seen “saying yes” work for you?

What Chick-fil-A Can Teach You About Customer Service

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“It would be my pleasure!” We don’t hear phrases like that very often. Do you know anyone that says that? I don’t. Actually, nowadays, you’d probably think someone was being sarcastic with you if they used a phrase like that in regular conversation.

But, Chick-fil-A has claimed “it would be my pleasure” as their customer service mantra. And it works. (Hundreds of thousands of loyal customers would confirm that for you.)

In case you’ve never been to a Chick-fil-A, they’re famous for their unparalleled customer service. They don’t just keep customers happy, they win customers over by going above and beyond... and they’re excited to do it. In fact, being America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant at Winning and Keeping Customers is one of their primary goals.

The positive experience that they create for their customers is as much about what they do as it is about what they think. Their employees could say “my pleasure” all day long, but if they said it with contempt, customers wouldn’t believe it, and it wouldn’t be effective.

So, what is it that motivates Chick-fil-A employees? And why does what they’re doing work so well?

Here are three inspiring quotes from S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A Founder, Chairman & CEO. It's very apparent that he's instilled his great ideas in the entire company from business executives all the way down to drive-thru workers.

So, how does this apply to you? These aren't just things that could change a fast-food restaurant. These customer service secrets can translate to any business. Including yours. (Who wouldn’t want to be famous for their customer service?)

1. “We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed...”

Cathy is referring to the human experience. Even though our world is vastly different than it was 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago, think about what it is that hasn’t changed. It’s what makes people tick. People have been living, smiling, laughing, loving “feeling” all since the dawn of time. That is the constant. Having a good experience is important to people.

So, what does this mean for your business? Appeal to the human experience. The good thing is, no one knows more about that than you do. How do you want to be treated when you visit or call a business? What would make that experience exceptional for you?

Make your business about people, and your reward will be just that: people. People turn into loyal customers. There’s no better marketing than word of mouth. When people have a great experience, enough of a great experience that they want to tell someone about it, that’s when you know you’re on your way to success.

2. “Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else: our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”

Customer service is about giving, no matter what business you’re in. What if, every time you came in contact with a customer, you asked yourself, How could I make this person’s day? And then did it?

Going the extra mile makes you stand out. Most businesses in our world today deliver only what you expect. Unfortunately, many deliver less than you expect. You could be one of the few that goes above and beyond what's expected!

The last time I went through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru, I had two old fast food cups taking up my only two cup holders. When I pulled up to the window, I realized I had nowhere to put the two new soft drinks they were about to give me. It was really obvious to the girl working the drive-thru window that I was struggling with two old cups in my arms, while trying to pay her and grab the food and new drinks at the same time.

Side Note: If you’ve worked at a fast food restaurant (which I did as a teenager), you know that this happens a lot. Some people will even ask you to throw their trash away for them. I know from experience how much fast food employees hate that (really, they talk about it), so I wasn’t about to ask her to throw away my dirty, old cups.

Imagine my surprise when the Chick-fil-A girl asked, “Would you like me to throw away those cups for you?”

I was floored! “Yes, that would be fantastic!” I said.

And of course she responded with, “My pleasure.”

She was thinking about me. She gave of her resources. She had a trash can, and I didn’t. And that small act made my day. The little things can go further than you might expect.

3. “Being in the food business, you have to remember to do each and every thing right, every time.”

Consistency is more important than you think it is. You can win a customer by doing something right once, but you can’t keep a customer unless you continue to do it right every time they visit.

At Chick-fil-A, I’m treated the same way every time I walk in the door. I never encounter an employee with a bad attitude. I never eat an undercooked chicken sandwich. I always know what to expect there.

This builds trust between you and your customers. When they know what to expect, they're more likely to turn to you in their time of need. When they know what to expect from you, they'll be glad to pay you for it.

What are your thoughts about these customer service insights? What customer service secrets have worked for your business?

3 Must-Do's That Will Instantly Improve Your Business's Telephone Etiquette

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Right after my dog urinated on the couch, I called the company that I have a furniture-stain-cleaning service agreement with. (The company’s policy says not to clean anything up yourself or you could “nullify” the contract you have with them. In order to get the service from them that you’ve already pre-paid for, you have to take pictures of the stain, fill out a form online, print it, sign it, mail it in, and then it takes a couple of weeks for someone to come out and clean the furniture. A ridiculous process, but that’s beside the point.)

So, anyway, while the urine seeped deeper and deeper into the couch cushion, I waited on hold. After a frustrating few minutes, an extremely distracted and curt man answered the phone. I told him the situation and asked him if there was anything they could do to speed up the process of getting a service man out to clean the couch, since this was a serious(ly gross) problem.

He answered my question with one word. “No.”

Confused, I said, “Okay. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing you can do?”

“No, you have to fill out the form and send it in.” (Spoken like a true robot.)

I pleaded, “Can’t I fill out the form with you over the phone or something so it doesn’t take so long? I can’t have urine sitting on my couch for two weeks!”

“No, we can’t do anything until we get the form in the mail.”

“Okay.” As I was thinking of what to say next, the man on the other end of the line said, “Okay.” Click.

I guess he was done with our conversation.

In an already-frustrating situation, that pushed me over the edge. Not only did I not get the answer I wanted, but he was rude to me. He wasn’t even pretending to be helpful. And, he hung up on me! (I ended up cleaning the urine out of the couch myself, by the way. I decided I was fine with nullifying a contract with a company like that.)

Ever experienced something like that? Of course you have. Everyone knows customer service calls can be a nightmare. Is your business known for that? Let’s hope not. But if so, how do you change that?

Two words: Telephone etiquette. It’s simple, really. Here are three all-encompassing practices to implement that will instantly improve telephone etiquette in your business. It’ll keep your customers happy. Which will keep you happy. Because that means they’ll keep paying you.

#1: Make the phone call your #1 priority.

Even if you or your employees are in the middle of a hundred different things, give the person on the other end of the phone call your undivided attention. The worst thing you can do is act preoccupied or annoyed. You don’t want the customer to think that they may be an inconvenience to you.

For example, when the phone rings, put down everything you’re doing. Minimize your computer screens, or tell the person you’re talking with to hang on for just a minute. Have a notepad right by the phone or an easy-to-pull-up place on your computer to use to take notes. That’s the only thing you should be doing while you’re on the phone.

#2: Mind your manners.

Don’t be rude. Speak to people like your grandmother taught you. Please’s and thank-you’s go a long way. At the very least, your customers and clients-to-be should feel respected after a conversation with someone at your business.

A practical way to implement this? Speak in complete sentences. That may seem like common sense (unless you’re a two-year-old). But, it’s a lesson that the stain-cleaning service guy from my phone call above needs to learn. Whether you’re intentionally being rude or not, answering a question with one word comes off the wrong way. Instead of saying “no,” say, “I’m so sorry, ma’am, but we can’t get the process started until we get the form from you.” Doesn’t that seem a lot nicer? Which brings me to my next point...

#3: Be a yes-person.

The phrase “yes-man” tends to have negative connotations, but when it comes down to telephone calls, that’s exactly who you want answering your phone, someone that’s inclined to say, “Yes!”

Customers don’t call in to hear the word “no.” (I know I sure didn’t when I made the above phone call.) So avoid saying the word altogether. In fact, this fantastic article by Deborah Grayson Riegel gives you seven ways to say no without saying no to your customers. (Which is a great way to keep them from cussing you out.)

Of course there are going to be some things you just can’t do for customers, but the bottom line is this: people just want to know that you’ve exhausted all options possible to help them. “Yes, I’ll try my very hardest,” or “Yes, I’ll do everything I can,” could keep you from losing a very valuable customer.

Don’t know how your team is doing when it comes to answering the phone? Learn how they’re handling calls using TeleCapture’s call recording service.

How To Answer The Phone: Welcoming Customers To Your Business

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Have you ever tried calling a local business and just gotten a “hello” on the other end? I have, and it was nothing short of an annoying experience. In that moment, I started wondering if I called the right place... so then I had to say, “Is this Lee’s Tree Service?” And the man (who I assumed was Lee) said, “Yeah.” And it was just a really awkward start to the phone call.

The funny thing is, it was awkward for me, but I’m almost positive (no, I am positive) that it wasn’t awkward at all to Lee, because he’s used to it. His business phone is his cell phone, so he’s used to saying “hello” because he doesn’t know whether the incoming call is personal or business-related.

So, what can we take away from this story? That the phone call left me (the potential customer) feeling awkward and confused. (Also like Lee’s Tree Service was run out of the shed in Lee’s backyard.) And at that moment, since our start wasn’t very professional, I immediately started wondering if this is who I wanted to do business with.

Not good.

So, here we see that getting off to a good start with your customers is crucial to getting new business.

The good news is that this is a simple problem that can be solved in 3 seconds or less, every time you answer the phone.

 

#1: Use your cell phone as your business phone... but, do it the right way.

Do you use your cell phone as your business phone? If you do, then:

  • purchase a new phone number to use as your business phone number,

  • forward that new business number to your cell phone, and then,

  • use a whisper service to differentiate your business calls from your personal calls.

A whisper service just gives you a quick heads up right when you answer the phone whether or not it’s a business call. That way, you can be prepared to answer your business phone calls the right way. (The setup may sound like a lot of work, but it’s actually not at all. In fact, TeleCapture offers this service. You can set up a new phone number in less than 60 seconds, and quickly be on your way to phone-answering-greatness.)

 

#2: Come up with a welcome sentence to use every time you answer your business calls.

Answering a business phone call should be like welcoming someone into your home. So figure out in advance what you’re going to say when they walk in. Here are three guidelines.

  • Let them know where they are. You have to state your business name. Your customers can’t see a sign on the door when they call you to make sure they’re in the right place. All they can hope is that they dialed the right number. They’ll want to feel like they’ve called the right place before they ask their question, so take care of that part for them so they don’t have to wonder.

  • Give them a warm greeting. This is simple. Include something nice! Maybe it’s “good morning/afternoon” or “thanks for calling.” Anything to make them feel welcome.

  • Let them know you’re there to help. Being hospitable means letting your guests know that you’re there to help. So, your welcome statement needs to include a phrase that makes your customers feel like you’re there just for them!

So, in the end, your statement should look something like these examples...

“Thanks for calling Lee’s Tree Service. How can I help you?”

Or, “Good morning! It’s a wonderful day at Lee’s Tree Service. What can I do for you today?”

Be creative. It’s your phrase. Own it!

 

#3: Be pleasant about it.

There’s one good way to kill all your work from steps #1 and #2... and that’s to be a grump about it all. You can state your business name, and have a nice little scripted sentence, but if you say it like you’d rather not be saying it, then you might as well not be saying it at all.

This article goes into some more details about pleasantries and how to talk with your customers during phone calls.

Unfortunately, I can’t illustrate this through writing alone, so you’ll have to help. Try saying this sentence out loud with boredom, annoyance and the least amount of voice inflection possible.

“Good morning. Thanks for calling Lee’s Tree Service. How can I help you.” (I used periods only for boredom-emphasis.)

It doesn’t mean much when it’s said that way, does it? Now trying saying the same phrase with a smile on your face. Like you mean it.

“Good morning! Thanks for calling Lee’s Tree Service. How can I help you?”

You’ve got it! That’s what your customers want to hear. And it’s the perfect way to introduce your business.

How To Record Incoming Calls To Your Business

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Why Recording Incoming Calls Is A Genius Move On Your Part

So your marketing has been successful and you're starting to get some fantastic call volume! Way to go! That's something to stop and celebrate.

Maybe you've rocked the direct mail campaigns, or that perfectly placed television ad really got your customers attention. Of course, hopefully, you set up a unique call tracking number for each of those campaigns so now you have great insights into which campaigns you should repeat and how you can improve the next round. (If not, we've got you covered.)

Now, when customers call, your sales team has the opportunity to help them move from "interested" to paying customers. But how are you going to evaluate those conversations? I guess you could stand behind their desk and listen carefully so you can figure out what's being asked. (Like you have time for that kind of foolishness.) Or, you can set up some way to record those incoming calls. We'd highly recommend the latter of those two options. And obviously, you've figured that out, too. That's why you're here.

Record Incoming Calls The Easy Way

Maybe you think that it's going to require some kind of hardware solution that you need to install at your location. Or maybe, you've been hesitant to look into it, because you think it may mean retraining your sales team in how to answer the phone. Here's the good news. It's just not complicated at all.

Ready for the simple process?

If you want to record the incoming calls to your business here's what you need to do:

  1. Purchase a cheap local number or toll free number from a phone tracking service. (Don't mess with the phone company and the exorbitant fees they charge.)

  2. Put that number on your marketing ads.

  3. Enter your existing business number for your call recording number to forward to.

  4. Listen to the recordings of your incoming calls and evaluate them in order to train your sales team better.

That's it.

When you use this process of a forwarding call recording number, everything stays just the same on your end. Nothing new to figure out. When the customer calls the number they will receive a courtesy message that lets them know that the call is recorded for quality purposes, and then it will connect to your sales team. Easy.

(Of course, if you're the DIY type, I guess you could go ahead and do it the hard way. You could stick a microphone by each of your sales team, and just ask the customer to "speak up". Run that baby to a sweet old-fashioned tape deck and you're all set.)

Turbo Charge Your Business Cards With Call Tracking Numbers

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Have Call Tracking Numbers. Will Travel.

It's hard to imagine a more common marketing tool for small business than the humble business card. As a small business owner, you probably hand these little puppies out like candy to everyone you meet. You've probably found yourself pinning your business cards to bulletin boards at the grocery store, or giving a few to the stylist at your hair salon, or subtly slipping them into birthday cards for your family. (Well, that may be a little extreme, but humor me for a second.) Why do you give them out so much? Because you're serious about getting the word out about your amazing business, right?

Have you ever wondered if all of that effort is paying off? I mean, sure it's fun to hand out your cards all willy-nilly, but wouldn't it be amazing when you get a customer call to be able to see that it was a result of your hand-to-hand marketing efforts?

I thought so, too.

If you're like me, you have your website address on your business card. That's fantastic because it helps you with branding. But, what if you put a QR code on the back of your business card that takes the user to a specific, private page on your website where you have a video welcome, or some cool little intro to yourself? That's super cool, and it would be helpful for you to know how often people access that information. For bonus points, you can create a page with a form where the user can give you their email or phone number and download something that they would find helpful.

All that is great.

But let's be honest. The most frequent action that people take with your business card is to pick up their business and give you call.

You Give Out Business Cards Because You Want People To Call

So, how are you going to measure that? Yep. You guessed it. Call tracking numbers. Instead of putting your main business number on your business card, pick up a local call tracking number and put it on there instead. Then, when they call, your call tracking service will register the call. When you're ready to see how your business card effectiveness is doing, you can log in and take a look.

 Check out Moo.com

Check out Moo.com

Bonus tip: When you're ready to increase response, consider using the back of your business card for a special call to action or teaser headline that will make you stand out more in customer's minds. It's a cross between branding and action-based marketing. If you like that idea, why not create several different calls to action? Companies like moo.com make creating beautiful and customizable business cards fun!

If you decide to go to a trade show or some special event, why not get a special business card printed up with a unique phone tracking number on it as well and measure the effectiveness of your efforts?

When it comes to marketing, you want to measure each campaign's effectiveness as much as possible.

How To Get More Qualified Leads By Measuring Your Marketing

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If you're a hungry entrepreneur, you're always learning how to get more qualified leads.

If you can get leads for your business that are responding to a special offer or who have taken a step toward you because of your marketing efforts, you're just steps away from getting a new customer.

So it's critical to measure the leads that your marketing is bringing in, and that the message and offer of that marketing is in sync with your business goals.

Entrepreneur Magazine published a great post examining this very issue in, Why Tracking Marketing Metrics Can Pay Off. The article emphasizes profiling your ideal customer and discovering the media to best target that client by using response measurement and metrics..which just happens to be the primary focus of the TeleCapture service.

...understand that most marketing and advertising campaigns are pure failure. They don't work for a variety of reasons.

So the difference between response-driven marketing and branding-oriented marketing is that you can track, test and measure the first type and adjust it until it is right for your business.

Why is it so important to track, test, and measure? You need to establish baseline performance numbers for your company in your particular category of business and then to try to improve upon them.

Brad Sugars made tons of great points in his post, but these few lines caught my attention. “Most...advertising campaigns are pure failure.” Ouch. That's a big statement, but then he goes on to explain the difference between response-driven marketing and branding-oriented marketing. We can't help you with branding marketing, because it's impossible to measure. However, measuring response-driven marketing is what we live for. When you spend money on advertising, you should do it by the numbers. In other words, you should already know what the lifetime value of a customer is for your business. Then, once you know that, you can decide what kind of response you need based on your budget to actually make money for your company.

Like Brad said, basically, most advertising is a gamble. Smart business owners, though, mitigate their risk by putting measurement tools into action.

How do you measure your marketing?

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.”

Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket with a huge direct mail campaign that costs $20,000, you can use this test method and only spend a fraction of that while measuring your response. Then, once you've narrowed in your most effective message, it's time to spend the big bucks because you know it will work. You have your numbers nailed down.

Measuring your marketing moves advertising from hopeful thinking to a numbers game. And that's where the profits live: in the numbers.

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Have more ideas for getting qualified leads by measuring your marketing? Let's hear them!

Toll Free Numbers and Local Numbers Should Have 100% Uptime

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Toll Free Numbers That Work 100% Of The Time

While chatting on our company Twitter account recently, I happened to come across one of our competitors, and out of curiosity took a peek at their page. To my surprise, there was a link to not one, but two Twitter accounts for the same business. As it turned out, one account was active for the sole purpose of providing updates as to whether or not their lines were experiencing problems that day and would be in working order for their customers.

What?

When you purchase a product you generally anticipate it's going to work. When the product happens to be the phone lines that bring leads into your business, there should never be any period of time when it is out of order. It is vital that your phone lines are up and running 100 percent of the time. One “down day” equals loss for your business, and being notified via Twitter of an outage or problem doesn’t put those dollars back in your pocket.

I'm proud to say that TeleCapture lines are tested daily to ensure your account is in full functioning order at all times. There is no need for us to have a dedicated Twitter account for alerting customers of outages, because all our servers are backed up and employ multiple termination carriers as well as redundant server based operations. Additionally, TeleCapture employs a 24/7 customer support team to handle any troubleshooting or assistance you may need while using our service.

Now that's 100% peace of mind.