When I talk to small business owners about blogging, the focus usually starts with why it ‘s a big-payback element of your content marketing mix – and it really is. And more (yes, more) than that, blogging can help integrate customer service, operations, and other departments with your sales and marketing efforts to create a more effective, efficient organization.
Sure, that sounds a little bit pie-in-the-sky, but I’m telling you, I’ve seen it happen.
Turns out I’m not the only one.
Blogging for Sales & Marketing & Everything Else
Buried in some very good articles (like this oldie-but-goodie from Moz) are suggestions that blog content isn’t “just” good for generating leads and turning prospects into customers.
Here’s the key: while your blog content should be planned primarily to create relationships with leads, prospects and customers, it can also be useful to your internal customers. That’s code for your employees. And vendors. And, and, and…
For example, a blog post about what to do when your product fails unexpectedly – directed at your prospects – should also be required reading inside your organization. Then, when a customer comes in complaining that a widget failed unexpectedly, no matter who handles that complaint, they’ll be prepared. AND YOUR EMPLOYEE AND CUSTOMER WILL BE ON THE SAME PAGE. You can see how that could prevent headaches, right?
Articles about the services you provide, explaining contract terms, or high-end products that are new to your mix, are other good examples that should be required reading.
If everyone in your organization is on the same page, when a sales opportunity presents itself, whoever recognizes that opportunity is ready to respond in a helpful way, advancing the sales process and preventing headaches.
Make Your Blog Useful, Inside and Out
I’m a big proponent of cross-training and think silos are silly (except on farms). I’ve found that blogging about a problem is a great way to solve (or at least, productively address) a problem and improve customer service.
Look no further than your complaint box (or Twitter feed) and you’ll see plenty of fodder for your next few (dozen) blog posts. ________________________ Good training is good, and good cross-training is great. Why? Because it promotes better customer service and operations. For help creating a content mix that works for you, your customers, and your employees, get in touch.
NEW FOR 2023: I recently promised a prospect I’d send a link to this blog, and when I realized it was nearly 3 years old, I thought “gonna have to write an update!” Was I ever surprised -‼️- all of the advice still applies. Updates in bold/italics appear in the original copy, below.
With near-continuous updates to Facebook’s (now Meta) Business Suite, YouTube’s ever-expanding functionality, and LinkedIn’s ongoing (baby) steps toward making its native tools more useful and user-friendly, it’s tempting to say, who needs a social media app or dashboard to manage social media?
Well, you probably do.
While there are good reasons to post natively (within the app, e.g., create a Facebook post in Facebook, or a LinkedIn update on your LI Company Page) there are at least as many good reasons to consider a third-party app to help you out.
Do Your Social Media Management App Homework
Here are a few thoughts to inform your decision-making process:
Many apps add functionality that make your posts look better, enhancing brand image. Photo editors that boast cool filters or make it easy to create post templates, for example, can go a long way to making your company social media messaging look more professional. 2023 update:post handling (especially image and video management) has come a lonnnnng way in 3 years across all apps, but other functionality, particularly gathering analytics, still vary tremendously. (LinkedIn, I’m looking at you.) If you rely on analytics from social channels, you really need a 3rd party to manage them.
Apps make it quicker and easier to compare channel activity, which can be very valuable – especially if you’re managing a small social media advertising budget. When you’re really watching your pennies, it’s important to know that your Twitter followers are only interested in your clearance items, while your Instagram followers share new products as well as sale items (or, that they don’t). 2023 update: still true; see note above! Also, social tools can help you spot trolls faster. Sadly, maybe even more important today.
Got help with your social posts? You’ll need to do your homework. Social tools like Sprout, Buffer, CoSchedule, HootSuite, Later, etc., etc. vary tremendously in terms of feature lists, pricing, and general user-friendliness. It’s nice to be able to see who-posted-what-when, it’s not so nice to have a hefty pay-per-user fee (unless you’re selling enough per channel/user to warrant the cost). Of course…
It’s nice to be able to “turn off” work-related social and just be, well, social. While app integration varies and some give more respite from work-related posting than others, this definitely belongs in the “pro” column.
Nurture Marketing & Communications focuses more on content than on tools and technology, but our consultants can help you determine the best way to manage your social media channels, and messaging, now and as your business grows.
This post was originally published November 30, 2020. While a few software suites have come and gone in the meantime, it’s just crazy how much has changed and yet… hasn’t. Nurture Marketing & Communication’s focus has not changed, so if it’s technology and tech integration you’re after, we’re not the partner you’re looking for. But, we might know someone who can help, so there’s no harm in asking 😉
Here’s a little secret: a “case study” is whatever you want it to be – or, more accurately, whatever you can make it.
Thirty (or more!) years ago a case study might’ve passed for a doctoral dissertation. There were graphs, research documents, and language that would make a legal team proud.
And if that’s what your case study needs to be, today, so be it.
In fact, in some highly technical fields (which are often tightly-regulated fields), that is the case study you need.
But more often, a case study can be boiled down to a few paragraphs describing how a customer used your product or service to solve a problem.
Granted, to be effective, those few paragraphs should be meaty ones – and you’ll need the customer’s cooperation to get the information you need to present a good case study.
Often, a case study can be boiled down to a few paragraphs detailing how a customer used your product or service to solve a problem.
Creating a case study “lite” or an application story – what we like to call “success stories” requires getting the customer’s permission to use its experience, and preferably, its name, in what is a somewhat formulaic testimonial. It usually goes something like this:
Sweet Products had struggled with supply chain issues for months and was running out of lids to seal its signature product, Yummy Jelly. Faced with the option of slowing jelly production to allow manufactures to deliver more lids or switching to a new container that customers may not recognize as the same trusted brand, Sweet was in a pickle when it came to Real Deal Jars.
Real Deal was able to design a jar with all components sourced in the USA, eliminating worries about shipping delays, while keeping the essence of the well-known Sweet Product container – which was important to consumers as well as vendors. Production was able to remain on track so there were no disruptions to jelly-eating. You might say Real Deal helped Sweet Products out of a jam. 😉
Ideally, your customer will be happy to lend its name – and even better, a quote – to the success story or (a-hem) case study. But, that’s not always possible.
You can still use the story. Yes, really. Name-dropping is nice, but not always necessary. Even a short success story, especially one with meaty content, is useful in your marketing and valuable to your brand.
Contact us to find out how to create your own success story.
Tell Your Customers “Thank You” (customer appreciation)
Tell Your Customers When Something is Wrong (business transparency)
Tell Your Customers What You Do (it’s obvious to you, but maybe not to them)
Tell Your Customers What You Don’t Do (< best way to avoid misunderstandings!)
Tell Your Customers When They Don’t Need You (this builds a boatload of referrals!)
The point is… good communication is the best way to educate your customers.
Words aren’t the only way to educate customers, of course. Looking them in the eye when you speak to them, that’s a good way to show them you’re serious about the service you offer.
The policies you have in place – and how you implement them (for better or worse) also teaches customers. Enforcing a 30-day return policy every.single.time might show them that you’re more serious about your policies than you are about good customer service, for example.
Of course, how you communicate your decisions regarding those exceptions is critical to employee development, too – and when you do it right, you’ll build customer loyalty in the process.
The bottom line: Educating customers takes a lot of work. But it’s worth it.
And it all starts with good communication.
Need to review or revise some policies? Create a customer or employee newsletter? Sounds like a good place to start. Please get in touch.
Everything your business does affects your relationship with customers, employees and partners.
Everything your business says and does is marketing.
So, what are you telling your customers?
Whether you’re introducing a new product, implementing a price increase or changing a policy, what you communicate matters, and how, and when you communicate it matters, too.
When we review our clients’ communications, it’s always a learning experience – for us, and for them. You might be surprised how many messages your business is sending that you don’t intend to send.
For example, is your posted return policy more of an operational how-to (for your employees) than it is a policy (meant to inform customers)? Always, always craft the message for your intended audience. An operational instruction is one thing, a customer service policy is something else. In many (but not all) cases, you need both.
All of these are great marketing messages. But some short, catchy phrases – on your ads, signage or just casually tumbling out of your employees’ mouths – can send unintentional messages.
Truly, most of the phrases above are good. Many of those unintentional messages start with “no” or include the phrase “company does not…”
There’s a place for language that limits liability and defines what your company does and does not do for customers. And it’s really easy to send mixed, or just plain wrong, messages.
If you purchased your business and are in the midst of revamping your logo, staff, product and service mix, do not neglect your communications. Every word your company uses matters, with your customers, partners, and employees. Want help reviewing your company marketing material, employee onboarding or customer service policies?
Your next big customer may be hiding in plain site – inside one of your current customers.
Do you have loyal customers who don’t buy much, but they buy regularly? If so, you have upsell opportunities.
Your customers already like you. They’re already used to spending money with you. They might be thrilled to learn that you can do more for them.
Are you sure your customers know what you do?
The full extent of the products and services you offer is obvious to you, and hopefully, to everyone on your staff. But longtime customers – even your raving fans – probably don’t know as much about your business as you assume they do.
Consider conducting a customer survey to find out. Or asking your newest employee to look at your business signage with their fresh perspective. Delivery and assembly services are some of the most frequently overlooked business services that customers will happily pay extra for – especially to a business with whom they have an existing relationship.
Oh my gosh – I would’ve bought so much more if I knew you delivered!
-customer lightbulb moment
Marketing to Existing Customers is Easy and Cost-effective
Lead generation, buying email lists, and creating advertising campaigns are all solid marketing activities. They’re also more time-consuming and expensive than marketing to your existing customers.
And marketing to your existing customers starts with [are you noticing a trend here?] good communication.
After a brief business review followed by an on-site visit, and if possible, a customer interaction or two, we can quickly improve your ability to market to a very receptive audience: your existing customers.
It bears repeating: online marketing does NOT negate the traditional principles of marketing. Understanding your ideal buyer is the fundamental first step to properly positioning (and pricing, and selling) your products.
In other words, before you master Google Ads or schedule a year’s worth of Facebook and Instagram posts, you should know whose eyeballs you want to attract, and how to get them to buy.
Nurture Marketing Tip: Get out a legal pad and a pen. Developing buyer personas for each of your top customer segments is best performed as a low-tech exercise.
What is a Buyer Persona?
Think of a buyer persona as a composite sketch of some of your best customers. What makes them tick? What ticks them off? Why do they need your products or services? How do they find out about your products and services?
No matter what your business,the more you know about your customers, the better. Collecting sales data is easier than ever. But when you’re launching a new product or service, or simply don’t have much sales and marketing data to work with, you need to create the composite profile of your best customers. The good news is that you can do a very good job, fairly easily, when you take the time to thoughtfully consider what you know about your customers, your product(s), your competition, and the general market.
Complete the questions below as best you can, based on what you know about your customers. Note that there’s just one set of questions below, and only one buyer persona example.
This is a valuable exercise, regardless of the type of business you’re in. Consider how the example below could be helpful in marketing several different types of consumer products or services.
Ideally, you’ll repeat the exercise for different types of customers, e.g., fleet buyers, repeat buyers, referral buyers, etc. Any way you slice it, the resulting buyer profiles are useful in tailoring your marketing and sales messaging. Get started with the questions below!
Persona Development Lite
Think about your best customers – the customers you’d like to clone – and answer the following questions about them. This is, in large part, a psychological exercise, so give yourself permission to imagine these people in rich detail. It’s like creating imaginary friends, only better – you’re dreaming up your picture-perfect customers.
Now, picturing one of your favorite customers, complete these questions to the best of your ability:
What industry or industries they work in?
Describe their basic demographic make-up, include –
What are their work days like?
What is/are their work/career goals? (getting promoted? getting a different job?)
Describe their most common complaints. < This is very important. Remember, people buysolutions to problems.
Who are the people, places, and resources they rely on to help solve problems?
How do they relax and have fun?
What is/are their greatest source(s) of pride?
If you’re marketing consumer products or services, or selling a product with a clear advantage in a mature market, answering these questions will probably give you enough to get started.
If you’re selling to B2B customers, your product or the need it addresses is very new or has a long sales cycle, you’ll need to answer more questions to develop buyer personas. (We have those questions – contact us if you’d like a copy.)
But Wait, There’s More
You’re not done yet. Hang in there! Understanding your customers is vital to increasing sales and repeat business.
After answering the initial questions with a particular customer in mind, repeat the process for your top three customer types – or even more, if your product offerings or customer segments dictate.
Then, flesh out descriptions for each of those prospects or customers. Your goal is to make the descriptions sound like introductions to real, live people. Think of the persona as an in-depth dating profile or a report on a candidate after an initial job interview.*
And – this is important –
Your first buyer persona might look something like this:
Lacy Labradoodle-Owner is 36. She is a married (or divorced) middle-manager working outside the home, with a fairly long commute. She has at least two children in day care/elementary school and her parents live out of town or are engrossed in their careers. She’s busy! Time is more precious than money. Taking care of “everything” is hard, but she and her neighbors and friends try. They want to drive nice, clean, shiny cars to their kids’ weekend and evening activities. They follow a variety of influencers and humor channels on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, post ‘humble-brags’ about food, exercise, and their kids’ accomplishments. They’re also active on LinkedIn and while they’d really like to get promoted (or launch a lucrative consulting business) they’re also longing for a vacation. The family dog is part of the family, but sometimes Lacy resents the care and feeding it requires.
You can probably see the value in this exercise pretty clearly.
Whether you’re selling pet insurance services, a new dog food, or a cleaning product, a profile like this gives you great insight into how to appeal to Lacy, where to reach her, and you understand some of her problems and priorities. All of that helps you move her through the buying cycle effectively – and just as importantly, helps ensure your relationship with Lacy gets off to a solid start.
You don’t want to just make sales – you want customers for the long haul! Develop the right relationship with those customers and they’ll sell for you.
If you’re ready, go! And if you’d like some help, let us know. We can help you flesh out your buyer personas, or to develop marketing plans based on what you already know about them.
Buyer personas lay a lot of groundwork needed to craft quality content, social and other online advertising campaigns, as well as developing new products, from branding and pricing to product launches and promotions.
The Bottom Line on Developing Buyer Personas
Oodles of resources online describe the nuances of persona development. If the questions above don’t seem to fit your customer base or product – or your just aren’t feeling it – you might want to look at other questions. That said, beware of distracting yourself from the work at hand.
Different guides to persona development range from a basic worksheet at Usability.gov to a much more comprehensive template at Hubspot. Which method is best for you? The one you actually use!
The point of this exercise is to develop a deeper understanding of your customers based on assumptions. However well-informed those assumptions, you might feel a little uneasy about essentially “making up” a target customer base.
An outside viewpoint can help. If you’d like to work through this together, contact us.
*Obviously most of these questions aren’t allowed in a job interview!
Generally, we advise clients to keep their posts brief. Unless, of course, a long post is warranted. When is a long post warranted? Well 😉 when it’s important enough that your followers will probably read it.
Social Media management tool Sprout Social wrote a definitive guide to social media post lengths (you can find it here) and reading it is worth your time if you’re focused on a new or growing social media following.
Here’s why shorter is better:
We’re all scanning, nobody’s really reading, and
And here’s when longer is better:
When it’s really important and
You’re pretty sure at least some of your followers will read it, or
Your customers and/or prospects really NEED to read it, because (refer to #1).
As an example, a locally-owned restaurant with a dedicated clientele had to close on the spur-of-the-moment. In 2020, it could be COVID-related, but in this case, it was water damage. It was either close the restaurant, or convince every customer to bring their own mops.
As soon as the water main was shut off, the doors had been locked, and the plumber had been called, it was time to post on Facebook. In this case, the restaurant rarely updated its website, using Facebook and Instagram as its primary tools to communicate with customers. (Which is OK, but not for very long and only when you accept the terrible trade-offs. More on that later.)
The restaurant posted a quick “we’re closed due to a maintenance emergency” update and followed up (within an hour) with a more detailed post. That post was long. It included a video of their temporary interior waterfall (unintentionally) created by their upstairs neighbor. The video drew eyeballs so they were pretty sure the message would be read by a lot of their followers.
In that case, they had a lot of information to include, like what they’d do about already-placed catering orders (refund them, but not right away, since the computer and records were also waterlogged) and when they planned to reopen (as soon as possible, but stay tuned…).
That is one of the few situations that really, truly, warrants a long and detailed post. Read on for one more.
Longer Posts Sometimes Get Engagement, But Rarely Get Read
We’ve argued (um, disagreed) with some clients about long posts. Some businesses, particularly in the professional services arena, appropriately maintain a formal tone in all of their marketing communications material, and that may include social media messaging.
We say “may” because we think there are better ways…like short formal posts directing readers to a link with the whole story. But we digress.
As a(hypothetical) example, let’s say a company provides safety services, so its social media messages are primarily safety tips and other important information. In order to share useful information beyond “hey, be careful!” some of those posts may be pretty long. But do they need to be? For the most part, no. This is where a little experience writing headlines comes in handy. Posting a good one-sentence summary and a link to the original, complete post (on your website, for example) probably makes more sense than including a couple of paragraphs in the body of your (Facebook or Instagram) post.
Watching your engagement analytics will tell you what you need to know. Just know that a lot of “Likes” on a longer post probably don’t translate into a lot of actual reading. More likely a lot of the Likes were courtesy clicks (especially if a lot of your followers are employees or partners). If the post was really meaty, and packed with information your followers really should read and/or care about, monitoring the comments will provide the best indication of true engagement.
So How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
On a topic like “How long is too long for a social media post,” for example, this one is probably a little too long. Wink, wink.
The German-based grocer sells mostly private-branded food items in clean, no-frills stores. Shoppers bring their own bags or pay for paper or plastic bags at checkout. The shopping carts are locked up, outside the store entrance. To unlock a cart costs a quarter –it’s just a deposit, fully refunded when you return the cart, but honestly, it’s kind of a hassle.
And ALDI shoppers don’t seem to mind.
Yes, we’re talking about shopping in the 21st century, when convenience is king. When online grocery orders are delivered to your door, and boxes from meal-prep companies are popping up on porches in even middle-class neighborhoods. When standing outside to unlock a grocery cart seems more than quaint. In fact, it’s a bit of a hassle.
It’s pretty obvious that ALDI isn’t competing with convenience-crazy, SKU-heavy superstores or even large regional grocers. It’s also clear ALDI has a very loyal following.
In 2018, ALDI started using the tagline “Shop Differentli.” Maybe it was a blatant steal from the classic VW “get a box” ad campaign, or maybe it’s just good marketing – because it’s good communication.
There’s no butcher on site at ALDI. You can’t get a custom cake or helium balloon or even a cup of coffee. But the prices are pretty darned good, and the so is the service. And that seems to be what ALDI shoppers want. Knowing what your customers want, and explaining that you offer it – in a clear, honest and engaging way – that’s a good start on good marketing.
Do you know what your customers want? Do you know what they love about the way you do business? That’s what your marketing should communicate; that’s the way to attract more of the customers who will nurture your business.
The people behind Nurture Marketing & Communications know and love plants – including manufacturing plants – and a lot of other kinds of business, too. But don’t let the images of plants and flowers, birds and bees, dirt and county roads fool you.
In fact, we know more about B-to-B and B-to-C business marketing than we do about biology – and while we’ve worked with businesses in the accounting, engineering, manufacturing and med/tech and public service sectors, we are all about good, home-grown, organic communication and (dare we say) nurturing customer service programs.
Companies and Organizations We Work With
We have worked and continue to consult with B-to-B customers in aerospace, engineering, chemical manufacturing, robotics, transportation, the automotive aftermarket and other not-very-flowery fields.
Our experience extends to working with companies (and a few not-for-profit organizations) who provide accounting, housing, legal, beauty, and other services.
We will admit to being extra-passionate about companies that have a nurturing outlook and aim to improve the environment, planet, and society in general through their business practices. Yes, it sounds a little rose-color-glasses and all. Guilty as charged.
No matter what kind of business you operate, if you’re interested in growing your business in a sustainable way, through good communication and business principles based in good customer service practices, we’d love to work with you. Please get in touch.