What Your Customers Want...

Companies large and small spend lots of time and money trying to attract new customers. Heck, we help them and know what they are Woman Shopping Cartspending on everything from packaging to web-design to social media. Even for a small business it can get expensive.

But, are you doing the right thing?  Are your current customers satisfied with what you are doing/selling/providing?  Or are you scrambling to always find "new customers" because your current crop is leaving?

Tough questions and let me offer some suggestions:

  • Be Customer Friendly - This starts with communication. In a recent study from Pegasystems 69% of consumers believe “being available when I need help, in the way I need it” is critical to retaining your customer base. But how do you know if you are not being focused, along several channels, to what help your customer needs? That's why we urge our clients to use organic social media so you can BE THERE when the call comes. That is also why we abhor the use of automated phone answering systems and always suggest that a real human answer your phone. Don't make the customer wait, guess or go elsewhere;
  • Connect With Your Customer - In a recent Forbes article we read this:  "71% of consumers believe that companies should do a better job of creating more attractive loyalty and rewards programs. Unfortunately, companies have yet to receive the memo: Less than a quarter—24%—are focused on creating loyalty/rewards programs. Instead, 69% of companies are conducting outbound messaging to improve customer engagement." This isn't about "piling up points" this is about connecting in real and specific ways. Having the ability to deliver personalized service, being truly helpful, understanding and working for...them;
  • Respond Quickly - There is a reason why Facebook bumps your engagement and tells others how quickly you respond. You see, it matters to consumers. Yet we've seen businesses from restaurants to professionals who only use social media to push their message rather than engage the consumer and ignore the questions or calls for help. Responding quickly requires you to monitor your social media.

I get it...all of this takes time but retaining a customer by delivering what he or she wants when they want it matters.

Thanks for reading!   


National Small Business Week - Marketing Tips

All this week, in the United States, there is a celebration of National Small Business Week. Since 1963 the federal government has set aside a week for a Small Business Week Imagecelebration that is critical to our economy. A few Small Business Facts:

  • There are roughly 29 million small businesses in the U.S. which account for 54% of all sales in this country;
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the U.S. and 66% of all net new jobs;
  • There are 600,000 franchise operations here that employ over 8 million people;
  • The American small business sector occupies nearly 50% of all commercial space up to 34 billion square feet.

Astounding yes?

Many of you have a business that has under 500 employees so, this week is also your week. What can you do to take part in Small Business Week?  Some thoughts:

  • Share Your Story - Contact the local newspaper, radio or television station. Let them know this is National Small Business Week and share your small business story. Take a moment and share what your small business means to your employees and customers and how money spent with you stays in your local community. Believe us, reporters are looking for stories they can use all week long;
  • Get Social - Grab the National Small Business Logo from this post and share it on your social media channels...and tell your story there as well;
  • Say Thank You - Remember your customers...they are the people that keep your business in business. Post a note on social media, send a note to customers, enclose a note in your shipping items...let people know how important they are to your small business;
  • Email the Message - Send out a coupon or at least a thank you reminding your email list that this is National Small Business Week...many of your customers are also small businesses.

Happy National Small Business Week!


Whims and Social Media

We were reading through some restaurant reviews the other day and found several that were very critical of number of restaurants in the Waiter RestaurantDes Moines Metro. There were some of the usual complaints about the lack of speedy service, bland food and the cost vs. the amount of food. Those are the things we often see. However, I've always wondered if diners take their concerns to the restaurant owner or manager at the time...or if they wait to shout about their experience on Social Media.

I've had this conversation with restaurant owners in the past and they tell me they often never hear about a complaint until it is posted online. That's like the old saying, "closing the barn door after the horse gets out". You would think the customer would say something at the time rather than wait. But there is some comfort, I guess, in being removed from the event. That way the complaint can go...unanswered and unfixed.  Which is too bad.

I took a moment and reached out to one of the more critical writers and asked her to give me, what she considered, her favorite restaurants in the Metro. Sort of let me know what she values regarding to her dining experience.  This is the answer: "Well, I don't have a favorite it all just depends on my mood and where I end up."

I understand sort of a whim...

But what happens when that "whim" turns to social media to complain about ______ fill in the blank. Restaurants are only as good as the people who staff them and sometimes they fail. I guess I'd rather deal with the issue one-on-one at the time rather than take it online. It, at least, gives the restaurant the opportunity to work toward a resolution of the issue that benefits both the diner and restaurant.

Your thoughts?

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Referral Marketing - Just Ask

This week Mike Colwell, a guest on the Business News Hour, and I had a conversation about Mike Colwell MPL 14 Dec 2016referral marketing. If you want to check out that podcast, here is a link. Referral marketing works really, really well and to get there you don't have to buy fancy software or a third party platform. Much, if not all, can be done on your own. But there are some critical steps to help you get there.

  • Know Your Best Customers - Small and large businesses know who their best customers are, or you should. The first step in referral marketing is to identify who these people are. Who has made your business their favorite? Who is already a brand warrior for you? You may have five or five hundred, it doesn't matter...just know who they are;
  • Ask Them - Once you've identified who your best customer is simply ask them why they love doing business with you. Is it service, selection, price, location??? What? Reach out with a phone call or in person the next time you see them and just ask.  You are already halfway there;
  • Share the Love - The next step is to ask them to share, what they have already told you, with their friends and family. And, if they really do love your business they will not feel put upon to do so. After all they have already told you they love doing business with you now all they have to do is share it.

Because we live in a sharing world (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram...) there are plenty of ways for your best customers to share why they love doing business with you. Imagine the impact of a customer doing a thirty second video on their phone telling the world why they love you. You can then post that to your website and share across several of your social media channels. Other ways to share the love:

  • Remind them to rate you on Google or Yelp or Facebook;
  • Ask them to do a selfie with your logo or your product then post it and tag your business;
  • Ask them to re-tweet a message or two each week;
  • Share the love on Instagram;
  • Have them write a recommendation on Facebook, LinkedIn or just have them send you the email and use part of that...with their permission.

Remember, people do business with people they know and trust...your best customers can be your best marketing asset if if you do just two things: Identify and Ask

Thanks for reading...

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Six Retail Marketing Tips - Small Business Saturday

Coming up on Saturday November 26th is National Small Business Saturday. If you own Small-Business-Saturday-Header-Undated that brick and mortar business allow me to offer up some marketing tips that will help you beat out the Big Box.

First, let’s consider what the impact of Small Business Saturday is for business. Check these numbers! According to a recent Sales Fuel survey last year 23 percent of U.S. adults shopped at a locally owned business on Small Business Saturday. While that is lower than the 33 percent of adults who shopped online during Cyber Monday more than half of those online shoppers said they would rather shop at small, locally owned businesses if the price and product quality is similar. And get this… Millennials aged 25 to 34 make up the single largest segment of Small Business Saturday shoppers at nearly 25 percent…  So quit worrying that all this demographic does is shop online…they don’t. 

So, how can you grab their attention from Millennials to Boomers?  Let’s go!

Start now. More than half of last year’s Small Business Saturday shoppers also shopped at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. This behavior means they might be tapped out and less motivated to shop on Small Business Saturday. To avoid this, create a marketing plan that includes consistent outreach from now until Small Business Saturday. What should that plan include?

  • In-Store Signage – Reminding shoppers that Saturday is Small Business Saturday and you’ve got even more deals coming.
  • Social Media Outreach – Do the same here remind folks that dollars spent locally stay local…it matters;
  • Photo Op – Take a section of your store and decorate with fun stuff so folks can take selfies of their shopping experience…they will share and you can also share on Instagram and Snapchat;
  • Traditional Marketing – If you’re buying ads to promote Black Friday also mention Small Business Saturday.

Make it mobile - Small Business Saturday shoppers will be turning to their smartphones to locate local stores, find product information and reviews, and compare prices. If you have free Wi-Fi let customers know. If you are doing email marketing make sure those messages are mobile friendly and any links go to mobile friendly landing pages that speak to shopping opportunities in your store. If you are doing text message marketing because nearly 36 percent of Millennials in the study say they took action base on such advertising.

Give your business website and local search presence a going-over - Your store should be listed on local search directories; check to be sure that the information listed there and on your business website is complete and accurate. In particular, your store’s address, hours and phone number should be easy to find. If you have special holiday hours, keep them updated or post a list of daily hours throughout the holiday season.

So…does it matter?  Just this past week I was looking for a phone number of a small business in the Des Moines Metro…on the business website. Not only was the website not mobile friendly but I could not find a way to connect by phone…no phone listed!  ACK…

Be social - Millennials are 57 percent more likely than the average shopper to take action based on an ad on a social network. Getting attention with organic Facebook posts has become more difficult, but Facebook advertising is quite affordable and effective. You can set a budget, monitor results and target your advertising very narrowly to people within your local community. Pair your Facebook advertising with a strong presence on Instagram and maybe even Snapchat.

Send the right message - Savvy shoppers crave the unique and individual. Your marketing messages should emphasize what makes your store stand out from big-box retailers. In addition to personal service and a friendly greeting, one-of-a-kind products, a carefully curated selection of items and gifts that people will find not only appealing but also priced right. Entice shoppers into your store with the back-story of why your business exists…

If you do a google search for Small Business Saturday you’ll find a page dedicated to specific free printable items you can use to help market your small business. If you are reading this piece on our blog here is that link.

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Blue Tomato Moves to Prime Land & Sea

Sara Hill and Chef David Baruthio have announced the re-location of the Blue Tomato Kitchen menu as an addition to the newly remodeled Davod Head ShotPrime Land & Sea at 1261 8th Street in West Des Moines. The menu move will allow Prime Land & Sea to be open for lunch starting on November 1st as well as increase the menu offerings of pasta, pizza and sandwiches to go along with the existing steak and seafood fare.

“There is going to be some major re-development at the corner of 63rd and Grand in West Des Moines and our lease would not have been renewed,” said Chef Baruthio. “We have wanted to expand our hours and offer lunch at Prime as well as increase our menu choices so this was not a difficult decision.  With this move our Blue Tomato customers will now have a full bar, an expanded wine list and we are making our own fresh mozzarella cheese on site. We will be offering more selection, more parking, more unique meals in a superior family friendly location. The Blue Tomato isn’t really going away and in 2017 we hope to revive that counter concept in yet another location.”

Baruthio says the price point for lunch and new dinner offerings will be very approachable and match those of the Blue Tomato Kitchen. And, because of the extensive remodeling of Prime there is a larger kitchen and equipment that will improve things like the pizza crust and other offerings. Following dinner on Saturday the 29th the Blue Tomato staff will begin to move familiar décor to Prime on 8th Street and be ready to serve lunch on Tuesday, November 1st at 11am.


It's Nearly Here - Are You Ready?

Let's not "beat around the bush" the critical 4th Quarter is nearly here and for many businesses Time Hour Glass it's make or break time. Are you ready to take advantage of what could be the best quarter of 2016 for just about any business?  Let's roll through some opportunity areas:

Traditional Broadcast Media - As they say "Fa-git about it!" It's an election year and if you have not secured your broadcast slots by now...good luck getting airtime between now and November. Many broadcast outlets will bounce your ad in response to political advertising. Make sure you well understand the conditions before you buy.

Traditional Print Media - Depending on what you are selling and even though traditional print media is in a major slump there are still opportunities here with your newspaper. If you are a local business some of the "neighborhood" magazines are still a buy. Word of caution: Remember "Less is More" when it comes to print advertising. Use color, buy at least a half page and be very image focused with a minimum of words...trust us.

Facebook Specials - Start your planning now for your Facebook Ads and Facebook Rewards for your most loyal customers. Make sure your graphics stand out and that the call to action is clear. And, don't bother with a 10% off reward. People don't really start to get motivated unless it is 20% or higher.

Back-Story Blog - You do have a business blog...right? This week start writing down what you are doing to prepare for the 4th Quarter. Give your readers/customers a look behind the scenes as to what is going on as you prepare for THEM a great shopping season. Even if you are not seasonal but a professional business; people love to "look behind the curtain".

Social Media Efforts - Planning is key. First you must know WHERE your target market is spending time. If your target is young consumers try Snapchat and Instagram. Don't forget about targeted geo-marketing using digital and if you don't have an active social media presence now is the time to start...like today.

YouTube - If you can't buy television time because of the election cycle...create your own television station on YouTube and share your creative videos across several social media channels. You won't get the coverage but...it can build sales.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys - The business that cares about how they meet or exceed their customers needs wins. Look, all you have to do is ask. Use your email list of customers (you have one right) and design a quick survey and in that survey do not forget to have at least one "call to action", "If you were pleased with our service what is it we can do for you now to help you and make your day better?"  Gotta ask for the order.

Website Update - Update your website with images of fall and change some wording around. Remember, even on your website you should have a call to action...

There are all kinds of ways to take advantage of the 4th Quarter but it takes time and effort. This is not an exhaustive list...but it's enough to get you started.

Thanks for reading!

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Engage Your Loyal Friends!

I know lots and lots of business owners that have lots and lots of "friends" on their various Friends Selfiesocial media channels yet they often complain they are not seeing sales match the number of people who are following them.

Wanna know why?

Because you have not ASKED for their help.

Follow along on this for a moment. It takes seconds to "Like" a page and maybe...maybe comment... Once done with that task many of your "friends" feel as if their investment is over. And you, and your business, racks up another "Like" which will do little to boost your bottom line.

How do you fix that?

  • Say "Thank You" - Don't ignore new "likes" or "friends" they may have liked your page but without you engaging them with at least a "Thank you!" they have little reason to champion your business;
  • Reward Your Brand Warriors - It doesn't take much to know WHO really helps drive your business. Which of your friends/customers continue to share positive messages about your brand to their friends. Then invite them to enjoy a free SOMETHING as a "thank you" for their help;
  • Have a Party - Want to jump start engagement?  If I had a retail business with hundreds or even thousands of "friends" I would invite the most active of them to the business for a party...just for them. Thank them for their work and give them a simple assignment to keep it up;
  • Personal Friends - Outside of social media you no doubt have friends...you know...folks you know well and often hang out with.  Don't forget them. They already like you so why not ask them to share their thoughts about your business with their friends?  The next gathering where you are together slip them a note with the "ask"...ask them to become brand warriors. Bet they will.

You can do all of this with a little effort that will pay huge rewards. Engage your "Friends" and they will help champion your brand.

You're welcome!

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Future Entrepreneurs - Simpson Collage

This week I was honored to be asked to judge the Simpson College 2016 Iron Journalist Pitch. I Simpson Iron Journalist 2016 was joined by Heather Hassebroek (Bublins) and Kaylee Williams (Volunteer Local). We were there to listen to business startup ideas created by four journalism students, Brock Borgenson (top left), Brittany Robb (top right), James Tillison (bottom left) and Kylee Hereid (bottom right).  The judges were encouraged to offer tips and ask questions of each contestant.

I know, "What? Journalism Students pitching for-profit business ideas?!?" That had me too so I was truly intrigued as to why Professor and Chair of Multimedia  Brian Steffen would mix "The Fourth Estate" with business creation. He said, "Journalism is rapidly changing and I want my students to think as entrepreneurs and to learn how to craft messages that will match consumer interest. Many of these students may find success in creating content that is not part of major news organizations but content consumed by people interested in specific niche areas." Good enough for me....

Here is a brief overview of each pitch:

  • Brock Borgenson - I'm not in his target market of but found his idea of marketing the sport of "Gaming" interesting. His idea was to create a portal where people, and there are millions, can come and learn more about professional and amateur "Gamers" through video, written tips, a magazine and walk-through events.  
  • Kylee Hereid - Her pitch was about weddings and creating a place where brides and grooms, in Iowa, could go to find and connect with everything from clothing to cakes. I loved the idea of keeping it "local" to Iowa and thereby helping folks in rural parts of the state get connected with goods and services. She would also, in the future, franchise to other states. This edition was I Do - Iowa. Nice. 
  • Brittany Robb - This was an interesting twist covering virtual reality news. In fact the site is called VRNews. The goal was to share VR technology news with others from business to research schools. She says, and I have to agree, this technology will be the next "hot thing".
  • James Tillison - This pitch became personal. James received his Eagle Scout at the age of 15. His pitch was hyper-local to the Mid-Iowa Council of The Boy Scouts of America. He envisioned a platform that would instruct, encourage and expand the knowledge of the 2,000+ Boy Scouts in Central Iowa. As he was presenting my mind floated back to my Boy Scout days and the impact those had on my life.   

We asked questions, tallied up the score and in the end the winner of the 2016 Simpson College Iron Journalist Challenge was Brock Borgeson of Naperville, Illinois.

Good stuff and thank you again for asking me to be part of the adventure. It was worth every minute. 

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The Business News Hour - Friday Wrap

Our ad agency is the fuel that powers Insight on Business the News Hour. It's the only IOB_podcastv2 TuneIndaily, hour-long business news broadcast in the Midwest. (No, really...we checked.) It airs Monday - Friday starting at 5:05PM on AM-940, FM-104.5 and (if you are really cool) in HD at 103.3 HD2. While we don't record and save the news and markets (that could get old....) we do save the long-form business interviews.

Also, we've been informed by the Iowa Broadcast News Association that the Business News Hour is now the Award Winning Business News Hour. We'll be picking up that honor this weekend in Waterloo at their Annual Convention. Thank you all..

Our long-form business interviews from this past week are below. You can click on the name of our guest or on the player to catch the interview.

He is the master of events. Meet our friend Beau Fodor who has, for years, put his special touch on event after event. From small gatherings to Iowa's Gay Wedding Planner to the man behind the Bollywood Ball. His company, Panache Points continues to adapt and grow.

 She's back...and each Monday Laura Kinnard joins us to share her top networking opportunities that are available here in the Des Moines Metro and we end up with a quick Social Media Tip...for business. This time we talk about content...what to share.

It's an interesting family business that's been around for generations. Mike Wells joins us to talk about the beginnings of Wells Blue Bunny, where the name came from and what's this re-branding they've been involved with? We also talk about the Iowa Business Council and what that means for Iowa and Iowa businesses.

Last month Thomas Kutz an attorney with the Kreamer Law Firm of West Des Moines attended South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. We were interested in why he attended, what his impression of the event was and what people there thought about Iowa. We talk music, business and impressions.

For over 70 years Woodard Hearing has been assisting people correct their hearing loss. Sure the technology has changed but, according to owner Diana Kautzky, the careful care of their patients has not. Our Small Business Spotlight shines on Woodard Hearing and their special event coming up soon. 

We love startups and today we learn about Servons from co-founder Steve Schott. Servons helps non-profits not only track volunteer hours but also serves as a way to reward and keep volunteers engaged. How does it all work?

The program is called Embrace Aging and it is a series of educational conversations on healthy aging in Iowa. The upcoming session is called Managing Chronic Diseases. The event is scheduled for 26 April at Drake University, Olmsted Center. With us is Dr. Yogesh Shah a geriatric specialist from Des Moines University and Kent Zimmerman from the Calvin Community of Des Moines. A deep conversation about health issues and outcomes.

Over the past several months two local shopping malls, Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines and Valley West Mall in West Des Moines have requested that bus service be removed from their property. Is it safety, congestion or something else that is driving these decisions?  In a written response from Kris Walter of the Merle Hay Mall we are told it was because Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) was misusing the drop-off area and causing congestion. We asked DART about that and more. With us is Amanda Wanke the Communications Officer for DART.

Thanks for reading & listening! Catch you tonight at 5:05 for the Business News Hour!