Monday, February 25, 2008

Your Best Customers Are...

...your best customers.
So what do I mean by this? Simple. Boil it all down, there are two ways for a business to grow its revenue: sell more products and services to new customers, or sell more products and services to existing customers. Most business owners focus on finding new customers. I'd like to suggest that you also focus on part 2: creating new products and services of interest to your existing customers.

The Wine Country Inn, wonderful St. Helena bed and breakfast inn, is a great example of this. Three or four years ago, the Inn would generate revenue from a guest staying there pretty much one way: via the nightly room rate. Over the past three years, however, WCI has sought to expand its guests services... and in the process, generate additional revenue from its best customers (those people already staying at the Inn). Now in addition to the room rate, WCI receives revenue from guests who purchase:
* spa services (massages, facials, etc.)
* beer and wine
* its day-long wine tours (see photo at right)

Talk about win-win. The just-mentioned products and services are all things any visitor to the Napa Valley would be interested in, and the Inn is now generating an additional $200,000+ in revenue per year from these items. That $200,000+ of course, is what guests were spending at other places throughout the Napa Valley... but are now spending at WCI.

Think about additional, related products or services that you could deliver to your customers. For example, a massage therapist might also sell massage oils and lotions, and candles; a photography store might begin a series of photography workshops; and so on.

Before you go to bed each night, and immediately upon waking, this mantra should be going through your mind:

Our best customers are our best customers.
Our best customers are our best customers.
Our best customers are our best customers.

As always, you can contact me to brainstorm or with questions.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Yesterday I met with the owner of the Sonoma Coast Villa and Spa (a wonderful resort near Bodega Bay), and over the course of our discussion J. told me seven or eight of the marketing "opportunities" he's been thinking about doing to help grow the Villa. I hear this often from business owners: lots and lots of ideas and opportunities. Two questions immediately come to mind about this:

1. Which opportunities do you focus on (or, more likely, in what order)?

2. How do you implement each?

Let's focus on the first question. Prioritizing your marketing outreach is one of the most important components of successful marketing. It's also where many business owners mis-step. My suggestion is this: create a meeting solely to list all opportunities (brainstorming) and then pick three to focus on in the coming year. Of the three, one should be something you can implement within 30 days, one within a quarter, and one within the year. In other words, think "quick", "quarterly", and "long-term". Then schedule and hold a separate meeting (as soon as possible thereafter) to begin building the plans to implement each of the three.

Yes, this is a little like Las Vegas, in that you're "gambling" that the time, effort, and money you devote to implementing an idea will pay off. How do you pick the three ideas to focus on? Well, either bring in a marketing expert for assistance or do what I tend to do more often than not: listen to my gut.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Power of Pictures

Do you like the photo above? Did it catch your attention? It would catch mine, and that's what I'd like to discuss now: The Power of Pictures in marketing.

Yes, yes, I know: boil it all down, I'm a word guy. I'm a firm believer that the words you use in marketing and business communications (called messaging and positioning) are critical components in moving your business from surviving to thriving. That being said, I'm also a very strong believer in the "power of pictures", and thus always advise my clients that, when creating marketing tools, to spend as much money as their budget allows on hiring and using a professional photographer.
Why? Words are great, but they also only go so far. A photograph, on the other hand, can create an instant visual appeal and positive emotion. The following are a few pics from friends at Studio on Main as examples.
Pretend that you're a bride-to-be (!), excited about your coming once-in-a-lifetime event. Would this photo generate positive emotions in you?

What about if you love vintage jewelry? Would this photo entice you?

I personally would answer "yes" to those questions. Again, I know that hiring a professional photographer requires an investment. But I firmly believe that your marketing tools (brochures, web sites, blogs, etc.) are only as good as the pieces (your content, photos, graphics, etc.) you create. So here's a Savvy Marketer insider's tip: Want better marketing tools? Create better marketing pieces. Yes, you need a word guy like me. But you also need high-quality photography. It will pay for itself many times over in terms of more and better customers.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Savvy Marketer: Power of Blogs

Almost every business needs, in my opinion, a Web site to help the business grow. Many businesses I believe also could utilize a blog--such as this one!--as a key marketing component.

Here's why. Web sites are great, but they also simply provide information. There isn't much interaction possible with visitors. (This 'generation' of Internet usage is called Web 1.0.) For Web 2.0, however, interaction with visitors is critical. A blog is a great way to facilitate this interaction with your customers and prospects, as people can post comments or questions, which you can respond to.

Blogs also have these other advantages:

1. They can be updated quickly and easily, which make them ideal for specials, announcements, etc.

2. Key "search engine optimization" terms can be used, assisting with your Google search engine ranking.

3. They're fun, and I believe fun is a critical element to almost every business.

Take some time to consider creating a blog for your business. Yes, it will take time to build it, and there will be a learning curve. But once you have it established, a blog can become an essential part of your marketing program.
Blog Examples:

Monday, February 4, 2008

Savvy Marketer: Customer Communications

One of the missed opportunities (notice I didn't say "mistakes"; it's the PR guy in me!) I see so many business owners make is this: spending too much time, effort and money on acquiring new the expense of communicating with, and servicing, existing customers.

Repeat this Savvy Marketer mantra after me: Your best customers are your best customers.

With TPC, I suggest a systematic, regular system of customer communications. Here's how to build this marketing program:

1. Create a database. This records the customer's key information, such as name, email address, etc. This can be as simple as Excel spreadsheet, or utilize one of the many software programs or online resources.

2. Regularly and at every opportunity add to and refine your database. This includes both updating and adding information for contacts already in the database, and adding new contacts.

3. Communicate regularly with your database. The key here is "regularly". I suggest client communications should happen ideally every month, and at the worse one time per quarter. The communication doesn't have to be expensive or always the same. In fact, I suggest variety. It would be easy to plan for the year ahead an every-other-month customer communication program made up of emails, printed materials (such as a letter or newsletter), a holiday card, a 'thank you' gift, and so on.

4. Provide value. Your communication should ideally be something the customer would want to receive. Avoid way-too-generic information, or information that's obviously pulled from an association or other third-party. (My dentist sends me every quarter a newsletter. I struggle -- struggle -- to find one piece of that newsletter that (a) engages me in any way and (b) is personalized for his dentist office. KEY TIP: Sending generic information to your customers sends the message that you provide generic service.

To build your business, begin by establishing a regular communication program with existing customers, then and only then focus on reaching new clients.

Insider Interview: J. Michael Drewes

J. Michael Drewes is a Business Development Officer for North Coast Bank. A former business owner himself, he provides business owners with both business banking advice and business growth consulting.

What do you see business owners "missing" when it comes to their financial needs?
I think the number one thing is that business owners under-utilize their bankers. In the case of North Coast Bank, we're about educating business owners in business best practices, from financial reports to management issues. You're banker shouldn't just be the 'numbers' guy, in other words.

So you suggest a business owner take the necessary steps to develop and deepen the relationship with their banker?
Absolutely. Not only do most Business Development Officers like myself have business ownership experience, we're free!

What's a 'quick tip' you can provide, something you see savvy business owners doing?
That would be setting up a Money Market Account in which excess funds in your checking account get 'swept into' the money market at the end of each day. It's a way to keep more of your money in interest bearing accounts rather than in a checking account. Now the the amount of interest might not be much, but over the course of a year, or two or three, it can really add up.

What else would you suggest a business owner do to take control of their finances?
We do a lot with Lines of Credit. Those are excellent for businesses with cash flow issues, such as seasonal businesses. A general rule of thumb is that you can obtain a Line of Credit that's 10% of annual sales. So if your sales are, say, $100,000 in one year, you can expect to receive about a $10,000 Credit Line. Now what most people don't realize is that this is expected to be at zero for 30 days during every 12-month period. Again, this isn't necessarily for a loan. If a business owner needs a loan for a longer period of time, a Credit Line probably isn't the best solution.