Text Message All Your Customers in Just 5 Steps

How to text message your customers

I know what you’re thinking. Text message your customers in just five steps? No way. Well, if you’re a part of the FiveStars small business network, yes, it’s actually that quick and easy. And why should you be sending out text messages to your customers? Because they have over a 90% open rate! That means your customers are actually reading your special promotions, announcements, special events, etc. instead of your messages sitting unread in their email inbox.

Text Your Customers in 5 Steps

1. Login to Your FiveStars Dashboard

Head to dashboard.fivestars.com and fill in your email and password that you set up with your Loyalty Consultant. No worries if you forgot it, just click “Forgot your password?” and follow the instructions there. Or call our Support Heroes! (860) 578-2770! Once you input your email and password, click the “Log in” blue button.

2. Click on the “Tools” tab, then click “Text Customers”

Once you are logged in, click on the “Tools” tab. Once you are on the Tools page, click the blue link that says “Text Customers” in the far left column.

3. Select which group of customers you want to send your message to

Easily choose from the following customer groups:

  • All Customers – This will send a text to your entire customer database.
  • At-Risk Customers – This option sends your message only to customers who haven’t returned in the past 30 days.
  • VIP Customers – This group of customers are the ones who have visited your business the most, you can set how many visits/points a customer has to earn to achieve this status in the “Profile” tab under “Settings”.
  • New Members – These are first time customers signed up to your rewards program within the past two weeks.
  • Near Reward – These are customers who are only a few points away from earning a reward from your business.

4. Insert your business name and the craft your text message

Your business name automatically appears at the beginning of your text (so your customers know who the text message is from), so type in your business name as you would like it to appear in your text message in the “Business Name” text box. Once you have decided what you want your text message to say, type that text into the “Compose Text” text box provided. Then click “Preview” to review your text message for spelling and grammar errors.

Need some text message ideas to get customers back in the door in a flash? Check out this infographic 5 Ways to Turn Around a Slow Day, and also this blog post Text Message Marketing for Small Businesses!

5. Preview your text, then click “Send Text”!

Once you click “Preview,” you will see what how your text message will appear in your customers’ text message inboxes. Again, make sure you carefully review your text before you send it out. When you have spell checked and made all final changes, click “Send Text” and your promotion will be sent out immediately to your targeted customers!

Need a helping hand?

Having trouble coming up with some good promotion ideas? Not sure if your text message is written well? Or need help going through these steps? Feel free to contact our Support Hereos at (860) 578-2770 (available 7am-7pm M-F & 8am-5pm Sat, pacific time) and support@fivestars.com!

 

Angela Prilliman

By Angela Prilliman

Angela Prilliman is FiveStars’ Content Marketing Strategist and the Editor in Chief for the FiveStars Loyalty small business blog, where she likes to sneak in animated .gifs when she can. Chat with Angela via Twitter or Google+.

 

Customer Loyalty Marathon

15 Reasons Your Customers Might Be Jumping Ship

Why you may be losing customers

Are you noticing your small business’s foot traffic beginning to dwindle? Are you losing customers who used to be regulars? We know 15 reasons why this may be happening. Let’s just get right to it.

1. Your customer service is less than perfect.

Think of this as the Disney principle: Treat your customers like gold, and they’ll come back forever. Neglect their needs, and you’ll be stuck watching your customer retention plummet. Every aspect of your customer-care process needs to be operating at its peak: from answering questions and taking phone calls to shipping product and scheduling services. Friendly, efficient and transparent are the adjectives to remember; create a list of best practices, and train your employees extensively. It’s the best way to win back your customers.

2. Your brand image is inconsistent.

The most successful brands are like people; they have identifiable personalities, goals and characteristic traits. If your company suffers from multiple faces, customers will never be sure who you really are, and they may never trust that any of those faces are actually you. Keep your credibility together by defining a brand identity and sticking to it. There’s always room for growth down the line, but creating a new persona for each audience does little but confuse everyone.

3. Your marketing efforts seem like an afterthought.

We all know the mantra: Build it, and they will come. While this certainly true under particular circumstances, it’s often misguided when it comes to marketing. Small businesses need to make sure that potential customers know who they are and what they do. After all, you may have confidence in your product or service, but new clients won’t. If your marketing feels thrown together — your signage is low quality, for instance, or your ads are misspelled — people will pick up on that lack of cohesion and often jump ship for a brand that provides a more trustworthy point of view.

4. You don’t engage with your customers.

This one can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you don’t want to beat customers over the head with constant contact. On the other, however, if you don’t actively encourage an ongoing relationship, you’re setting up a barrier to those customers returning. The best way to avoid to this plight — and, for that matter, to win back lost customers — is to create a brand identity that speaks to your audience on their level. Make the tone of your marketing friendly, accessible and conversational; it not only positions you as the expert, but it also gives you the aura of a reliable friend.

5. You don’t know who your customer is.

Of course, before you can engage with your customers, you have to understand who they are. Every marketing professional has stumbled into this problem dozens of times: You’re happily targeting a particular audience only to discover that your actual audience is miles removed from your plans. While you definitely want to leave room for the aspirational customers, it’s important to know precisely who’s buying your products and services; it’s the only to give them what they need. Consider launching a focus group, or set up a post-purchase online survey. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn with just a few carefully worded questions.

6. Your brand doesn’t tell a story.

Brand storytelling is a somewhat nebulous concept. It means different things for nearly every company, and it doesn’t follow quite the same rules as writing a book or shooting a film. For our purposes, brand storytelling is all about creating immersive, dynamic moments through a series of unifying themes. Slapping your logo on anything that will stand still is only part of the battle; successful brands weave a narrative about who they are, what they do and why they do it. Google Chrome, for instance, created a stunning moment by featuring relatable characters using the product to achieve familiar goals. The ASPCA has melted hearts for years with its Sarah McLachlan-led television spots. Tell a story that resonates with people, and you’ll be rewarded with years of repeat business.

7. You haven’t made good on a promise.

Whether directly or indirectly, every company makes a series of promises to its customers. Maybe your storytelling promises that you’ll be the brand that delivers peace of mind. Maybe your website guarantees 100 percent satisfaction. However you’ve achieved it, you’ve asked customers for their trust — and if you break that trust, you run the risk of losing them forever. Make a list of all the promises specific to your brand, and use that list as the guiding light for everything you do.

8. You’re not online… anywhere.

Every company wants to be where the customers are, and more often than not, that place is online. Not every brand has a reason to use Pinterest and Instagram, but a navigable website and basic social presence will do wonders for your reputation. If customers can’t find you online, they often assume that you simply don’t exist.

9. Your email program is spam central.

Email campaigns and newsletters are among the best ways to engage customers, but be careful with the pacing. If you’re sending lackluster emails several times a day, even the most loyal customers will reach the end of their ropes. Send only high-quality content once or twice a week; there’s a fine line between spreading the word and becoming that obnoxious uncle who forwards every inspirational chain letter that lands in his inbox.

10. Your website is difficult to navigate.

Customers who know and love your brand might overlook this problem, but new clients won’t stand for a website that makes no sense. Skip the fancy graphics and animated images in favor of a clean, user-friendly experience. You don’t even need a professional web developer to help you get there; plenty of easy-to-incorporate templates exist for blogging platforms, and programs like Adobe Muse let you build a site from scratch without having to code a single line.

11. You’re overly promotional.

Marketing isn’t only about overt selling. The most successful companies spend as much time creating an emotional connection with customers as they do directly asking those customers to purchase something. If all of your interactions are focused on a buy-this-now mentality, many new clients will simply walk away. Pressure tactics are always more harmful than helpful.

12. You haven’t walked in your customers’ shoes.

Before a marketing consultant begins working on a new campaign, he or she will often spend quite a bit of time talking to potential customers in an effort to understand how the product aligns with their daily lives. This is how brands like Dove and Pampers consistently forge connections with their audience: by understanding what customers like and how they spend their days. If you haven’t taken the time to look through your clients’ eyes, you can’t speak to them on a one-to-one level. Never underestimate the power of authenticity.

13. Your wait times are inconsistent.

Though it’s impossible to avoid bumps in the road, consistent lead times are crucial to your success. This applies to everything from customer service to shipping and scheduling; if you can’t create a basic set of expectations where long waiting periods are clearly outside the norm, customers will undoubtedly choose a brand who can. Here, it’s not even about speed. It’s about reliability.

14. You’re not enthusiastic.

Everyone’s tackled a project that feels less than thrilling, but if you’re routinely bored by your marketing efforts, your customers will be too. Try to inject an element of fun into everything you do; whether it’s incredibly friendly customer service, witty website copy or surprise-and-delight promotions, enthusiastic brand positioning works wonders for your perceived confidence.

15. You haven’t given them a reason to return.

We’ve saved the biggest hurdle for last. In order to reap the benefits of customer retention, you have to give those customers a reason to return. The possibilities here are almost endless; some brands encourage repeat visits with special offers while others opt for semi-annual sales or special events. One of the most reliable tactics, however, is setting up a loyalty program. These members-only clubs reward clients by offering a series of exclusive perks. The most common example is the classic buy-ten-get-one-free card, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Give your loyalty program a little extra wow factor with sophisticated membership cards, exclusive events and insider-only sales. You might just find yourself with a few new customers who are intrigued by the offerings.

 

Angela Prilliman

By Angela Prilliman

Angela Prilliman is FiveStars’s Content Marketing Strategist and the Editor in Chief for the FiveStars Loyalty small business blog, where she likes to sneak in animated .gifs when she can. Chat with Angela via Twitter or Google+.

 

Customer Loyalty Marathon

Maximize Your Marketing Budget

Maximize your marketing budget

It’s always wise to be practical with your expenses, regardless of your particular situation. People can sometimes be filled with shock, amazement, and usually anger when they hear of a celebrity or athlete who at one point was worth hundreds of millions of dollars but is now penniless and completely bankrupt. Even the mega-wealthy need to carefully budget their finances, even if it’s on a larger scale than most of us will never come close to.

For anyone that has started up a small business, frugality is something they are undoubtedly intimately familiar with. For the first few years, tough financial decisions are made on a highly frequent basis – often, key aspects of the business are pared down dramatically or omitted completely in order to stay afloat. One of those aspects that usually gets tossed by the wayside is marketing.

Many new business owners are faced with trying to manage bills, making sure that payroll will be met, and still figuring out the most efficient and effective way to run the business on a daily basis. When confronted with those critical tasks, marketing is something of an afterthought usually – but it doesn’t have to be, nor should it be. After all, if you don’t market yourself and your business, how can you expect to grow your customer base?

How to stretch your business’s dollar for marketing & advertising

There are a lot of ways in which you, the small business owner, can still run an effective marketing campaign on a tight budget. We’ll highlight a few guidelines and methods that will allow you to get the word out about your business without having to take the hammer to the proverbial piggy bank.

1.  Determine your budget

This is more of a foundational step that isn’t doing any outbound marketing, but it’s a critical one. You must have a clear picture in mind of what you’re willing (and more importantly, able) to spend on marketing. It can be zero dollars, or it can be in the tens of thousands depending on your business, but we’ll be focusing on the lower-end of budgets for the purposes of this article.

A good rule of thumb for many small businesses is allocating about five percent of your total yearly gross revenue toward marketing (e.g. – if your business grossed $500,000 in the year, an appropriate yearly budget would be $25,000). You can of course raise or lower this depending on your industry and your current financial situation, but it’s a good starting point. You might particularly consider increasing your percentage if you’re just starting out and need to inform people of your existence.

Once you have a number for your yearly marketing budget, divide it into a monthly or even weekly number. This will not only help you stay on track for the year, but it puts your budget in a more tangible light – $25,000 a year may seem like a lot, but $480 a week is a bit more accessible of a figure (especially considering that using the metric above, that business spending $480 a week in marketing is grossing over $9,600 a week).

2.  Develop a Plan

If you fail to plan, plan to fail. A bit clichéd, I know, but it really is true. Establishing your budget is a great first step, but you need to assign marketing activities to those dollars on a weekly or monthly basis in order for them to be effective. Say it’s January and you have a marketing budget of $1,000 for the upcoming month of February – you should have a pretty solid grasp on exactly which activities you’ll be carrying out before the calendar gets anywhere near February 1.

The more detailed your plan is and the farther it is forecast in advance, the more effective your marketing will ultimately be. Having a plan for each month is great, but try to get at least the fiscal or calendar year mapped out in advance – this will help prevent you from doubling up on efforts (e.g. – running a similar advertisement or carrying out a similar promotion). It will also prevent you from being reactive instead of proactive.

Having said that, however, don’t feel like if you have a great plan developed and mapped out that it’s somehow set in stone. You unfortunately won’t have access to a functional and accurate crystal ball, so you won’t know the future. Your big coupon promotion planned for May to coincide with the County Fair will have to be changed or nixed completely once the monsoon of the decade moves through and the Fair is cancelled.

3.  Utilize “free” marketing whenever possible

“Free” is used in quotation marks since any amount of time either you or an employee/contractor spends on marketing will affect your bottom line, but for all intents and purposes there are many things you can do to market your business that won’t cost you anything in terms of hard dollars spent.

Social media… Facebook, Twitter, you name it

The biggest of these freebies is to take advantage of social media. If your business doesn’t have a Facebook page, a Google+ profile, and a Twitter account, create them right away, it’s free advertising! If you are new to any or all of these social media platforms, consult with a friend, family member, or employee who is familiar with them and can assist you in getting the basics down (also, a quick Internet search will yield lots of great results on the basic steps to create a business page for pretty much every social media network imaginable).

They are free to set up and operate, and once completed, you’ll have access to the billions of users that frequent them. There is a science and etiquette to marketing on social media however, so do yourself a favor and read up/acquaint yourself with the best practices before diving in headfirst. Or you can check out our previous blog post regarding social media practices for small businesses!

Public Relations

Another free form of marketing that often gets overlooked is public relations. Many larger businesses hire high-dollar agencies to carry out their PR work for them, but that’s not an option when you’re trying to save as much money as possible.

The basic elements of public relations can be carried out all on your own, however – introduce yourself to all local media outlets, trade publications for your industry, and online communities that are related to your field. Offer yourself up as an industry expert for anyone looking for quotes for an interview or roundtable discussion participants. Try and pitch your business as a good story opportunity, especially if you’re about to kick off a charitable/community service oriented campaign. By familiarizing yourself with the right people and media outlets, you might be surprised at some of the stories your business might land and the visibility they’ll give you.

4.  Check Progress and ROI Regularly

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If that’s true, then the definition of wasting marketing dollars is to carry out the same campaigns and promotions over and over again without making sure they’re effective. Checking your return on investment, or ROI, is the most effective way to ensure that you’re not wasting your time and money.

Online ad spends, social media campaigns, and promotions with coupons or other traceable metrics are the most helpful. A small ad spend on Facebook will yield you with incredibly granular detail about who is seeing, and more importantly who is responding, to your content. And opting for a pay per click model of online advertising instead of a pay-per-impression model means you only pay for those that actively click through to your page – at a much higher rate, of course.

Print, radio, and television ads can be a bit harder to track ROI since you’re paying for gross impressions, but offering up a call to action with a code or keyword can really help. If you run a full-page ad in the local daily newspaper, consider making a prominent call-out that tells customers to bring in the ad to receive a special discount. You can have a firm count on how many people are motivated enough to come in due to your promotion and ad, which will be valuable when planning your next marketing event.

5.  Don’t be afraid to seek help!

Our final tip might be the most difficult for many small business owners. Many times, a business owner can know every in and out related to their industry or field of expertise, but not have the first clue about marketing. That’s perfectly understandable! But too often, that business owner will either attempt to become a marketing expert overnight rather than seek help, or jettison marketing altogether because they don’t understand its value. Don’t let that happen to you – there are a ton of valuable resources online that will help business owners from all levels of marketing knowledge from complete luddite newcomers who don’t really know what Twitter even is, to tech-savvy entrepreneurs who are looking how to take their already solid marketing plan to the next level.

Spend some time on small business forums (Open Forum is a great one!), read applicable trade publications and websites, and feel free to ask your competitors what they’re doing and what some of their notable marketing successes and failures have been. They might not want to share, but you’ll never know unless you ask.

 

Angela Prilliman

By Jerry Whitehead III

Jerry Whitehead is a small business and customer loyalty expert, and a regular guest blogger here at the FiveStars Loyalty small business blog. He loves the outdoors and some Beatles goodness. Chat with Jerry via Google+.

 

Customer Loyalty Marathon

3 Dos and Don’ts If You’re Considering Direct Mail Marketing

Does direct mail marketing work?I would wager that most business owners under the age of 35 probably have never even considered running a direct mail marketing campaign for their business. Having grown up in an increasingly paperless world, the mere concept of spending precious marketing dollars on printing up thousands of pieces of paper to stuff into mailboxes across a large swath of people seems pretty crazy to the younger generation of entrepreneurs – and it’s not a baseless feeling. There’s no denying that the business world (and our world in general) has been dramatically swinging toward the quicker, more efficient, much cheaper, and much more environmentally friendly realm of electronic communication. But does direct mail marketing actually work?

If you’re going to do direct mail, you gotta do it right

But before any of you young guns scoff and discount the idea of a mail marketing campaign, you might want to read through this blog entry. Direct mail, while certainly a dinosaur in the world of marketing, can still be a powerful weapon in your arsenal – if it’s done correctly and intelligently, of course. We’ll lay out a few broad tips for you to consider if carrying out a direct mail campaign. While we would still urge the majority of business owners toward a more electronic/Internet based marketing strategy, you can still get solid results from direct mail.

 

The Dos…

1. Follow the 40/40/20 Rule

If you’ve read this blog before, you know how heavily we stress the importance of preparing, making a well-thought out and comprehensive plan, and then executing against it. Well, it’s no different for direct mail marketing, and the tried-and-true approach for this tried-and-true method of marketing is known as the 40/40/20 rule. This rule dictates that the success and eventual ROI of your direct mail marketing efforts are going to be dependent upon three factors – 40% of your success will come from how effective your mailing list is, another 40% will depend on how compelling your offer is, and the remaining 20% will come from everything else (design, the copy/text of the mailing, the images you’ve chosen, delivery date and method, etc.).

Don’t waste time on the design

While this is obviously more of a guideline than a hard-fast rule, if nothing else it should show you where your efforts need to be placed when undertaking a direct mail marketing campaign. Too often, business owners will spend an inordinate amount of time on coming up with the flashiest, snazziest, most eye-catching design that they are sure will blow everyone away, and then rush to put together the offer and/or the list of folks to send it to. It’s one of the most common mistakes of a mail marketing campaign.

Focus on defining who your audience is

If your store is offering a limited-time discount on Life Alert bracelets, you know you don’t need to waste time and more importantly money sending the promotional materials to anyone under the age of 55. Unless you have limitless pockets, simply blanketing an area or zip code with your offer is a great way to waste money.

Once your list is targeted, you need to spend an equally large portion of time coming up with a great deal – even if it means you might lose a bit of money on it. The underlying goal of any marketing campaign is to gain new customers, and it’s worth it to significantly reduce your profit margins to gain said customers. Once you have a surgically-honed list and an amazing offer, then you can spend some time on the design, copy, delivery methods, postage rates, date of delivery, size of the mailer…there are a lot of other options to consider, but following the 40/40/20 rule you can see how important audience and offer truly are.

2. Test The Market

This ties into the first 40 of the 40/40/20 rule – even if you have what you feel is a great and well-defined target list, you won’t truly know how great it is until you test it. If you operate a business in a smaller community, this won’t be as critical – but if you’re in a medium or large city, it can be crucial. Using the example above, even if you know that the Life Alert bracelet offer is meant for seniors, in a city like San Francisco or New York, you wouldn’t want to send it to everyone over the age of 55 citywide. Instead, select one (or in a very large city, several) small area to test the market out. Start small and measure the effectiveness and ROI along every step of the way.

You can (and should) run several tests with small tweaks to find the most effective combination of audience, offer, and design before sending it out wide – just remember to only change one variable per test or you won’t know what caused the changing result.

3. Make a Great Call to Action

This ties into the second 40 of the 40/40/20 rule – now you’re probably beginning to see why that was listed up front and why it’s universally considered the gold standard when it comes to direct mail marketing guidelines. With other forms of advertisements or marketing, it is perfectly acceptable to only go after impressions – a billboard in a highly-trafficked area or a TV spot that is more of a teaser in nature can sometimes go a long way toward educating the public of your existence, which is the first step in getting them to engage. With direct mailings however, you might as well be printing cash to send out to people if you don’t have a compelling call to action to give people.

The call to action doesn’t have to be a sale or discount – it could be advertising a contest or promotion, or incentivizing people to conduct an online survey. Regardless of the nature of the call to action, there must at least BE a call to action. Direct mailing is most certainly not the avenue to send out a blank postcard or flyer that simply informs people of your presence – it’s too expensive, too time consuming, and too hard to efficiently track metrics to garner simple impressions.

…and the Don’ts

1. Fail to Proofread/Quality Control

Even though this falls into just one of the myriad of elements in the 20 portion of the 40/40/20 rule, it is arguably the most important. Nothing will get your piece of direct mail marketing throw into the trash bin more quickly than a glaring typo, a noticeable formatting issue, or an overall poor print quality. If you’re writing the copy, be sure to not only proof it yourself but also have some of your more linguistically-inclined friends and colleagues give it a once over, not only for grammatical and punctuation mistakes but for overall ease of reading and flow. Don’t be afraid to seek as many trusted opinions as possible, and be sure to have thick skin to prepare for any constructive criticisms.

For the design element, odds are that unless you have an artistic background, you’ll be either using a pre-existing template from your printer or having it designed by a graphics designer. The templates from your printer will more than likely have an effective eye flow and a solid ratio of graphics to text – if you go the designer route, be sure to get several mock ups and again seek the opinions of those around you whose opinion you value. And finally, print quality should be self-explanatory – be sure to go with a printer that offers some sort of guarantee on quality, or at the very least one that will offer you a refund or reprint if you’re not 100% satisfied. The last thing you’d want to do is have to settle on a poorly printed mailer to save costs.

2. Forget to Follow Up

After all is said and done, you’ll be left with a handful of people that have come in and transacted business with you based purely on your piece of mail. You can track this in any number of ways (coupon codes, requiring them to bring the mail in, comparing sales numbers from highlighted items on sale versus when they’re not, etc.), but be sure to track it in an easily manageable fashion. This will allow you to re-engage with those customers with whom your mail marketing was successful.

It can be as simple as sending them a thank-you note or adding them to a “VIP” list that you can use later and will be comprised only of folks that you know are responding and acting upon your mail marketing efforts. Regardless of how you do it, don’t forget it – these people are worth their weight in gold when undertaking your next mail campaign.

3. Forget To Drive Traffic Online

Even though this article is focused entirely on mail marketing, let’s be honest – it won’t be long until direct mail is pretty much a relic of a bygone era. And that’s perfectly okay – changing times call for changing tactics. While some business owners have opted to chuck mail marketing into the trash bin altogether, a more transitional option would be to reduce the amount spent on mail marketing but direct the recipients of the mail toward your business’s online front.

A simple and cheap postcard that incentivizes and encourages people to follow you on a certain social media platform, hosting an online sale with coupon codes that are distributed via mail, using QR codes to unlock small freebie items, or giving additional entries into a contest hosted on your business’s website are all great methods that not only give your direct mail a strong call to action, but drive traffic to your online footprint as well, which will only continue to grow in importance through the years.

 

Angela Prilliman

By Jerry Whitehead III

Jerry Whitehead is a small business and customer loyalty expert, and a regular guest blogger here at the FiveStars Loyalty small business blog. He loves the outdoors and some Beatles goodness. Chat with Jerry via Google+.

 

Customer Loyalty Marathon