Monthly Archives: April 2014

7 Methods to Keep Existing Customers Happy

cash register

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a Sprint commercial from a few years ago. It starts out with a scene in a kindergarten where the new boy is given a giant pack of fresh new markers while everyone else has to make do with some broken old crayons.

When the other kids look at their teacher and act as if it’s not fair, she says, “but he’s new so he gets the best.” The commercial went on to explain that existing customers were just as important to the people at Sprint as new customers.

The fact is that most of us spend entirely too much time focused on trying to impress new people but we take our existing customers for granted and just assume that they’re always going to be there. The fact is though that the person who makes this assumption will endlessly need to build new e-mail lists while the person who treats existing customers right will find that their business only keeps growing.

Here are seven proven strategies for retaining your customers and making sure that they’ll continue to come back for years and years to come.

Make Your Customers Feel Important

Everyone wants to get their 15 minutes of fame. It’s one of those things that we all dream of even if we won’t admit it to everyone else. So why not do your part for your customers by letting them appear in your material? Just include them in your advertising and let the people that love you the most show their love.

You can use quotes from your customers or even have them do a video testimonial which can be published on your website or elsewhere. Do make sure that you get permission to use their images though and make it clear that you will be using the material without paying anything other than the chance to be seen publicly.

Send Random Discounts and Congratulations

I mentioned this in the past but it’s worth bringing up again. First of all, consider just sending out a random coupon which grants people a percentage off from their future purchase. This kind of thing both stimulates some sales from your customers and makes them feel like they’re actually important to you rather than simply another number.

Sale price

You can also send out some random congratulations cards to your customers. This is a technique I picked up years ago and I love it. In essence, you just send our random personalized cards to your clients or even to their e-mail addresses and wish them congratulations in as generic a way as possible. They’ll be wondering how you knew about whatever good news just came their way, be it in business or in their personal lives.

Of course, this should be done sparingly as you do run the risk of timing it wrong if you happen to send out congratulations when something bad just happened to them but you can always smooth that over. If they call and say that something bad just happened and you’re wondering why you’re congratulating them, you can always say that you’re sorry for whatever it was that happened but the congratulations are because they just won a discount coupon for being a loyal customer.

Do the Knickknack Thing

You know how pretty much everyone seems to give out some kind of knickknack, be it a pen or a tote bag? There’s a reason for that – it works and it works really well. People tend to like these things and they’ll remember you for giving them something of value. The more unique and useful the item is, the more likely you are to actually get some benefit from it.

Actually, I recently ran across a really cool article where there were some pretty unique looking business cards. Some of them were kind of silly, like a card that turns into a pico-size shipping box, however there were others that were incredibly clever, like the cheese grater card. I also recall seeing a card for a funeral home which had the Lord’s Prayer on it. A tad macabre I suppose but it was also clever.

Listen to What Your Customers Have to Say

I’ve mentioned this in the past as well and even though I have, it’s vitally important to mention it again and again and again. Probably the single most important thing that you can do in order to ensure that your customers will keep coming back for more of whatever it is that you have to offer is to offer real customer service.

This means that if they have a problem with your product, you don’t just ignore what they tell you. You actually take the time to pay attention and listen to what they have to say so that you can get them whatever they need. In other words, listen to your customers and show them that their opinions matter. In a world dominated by impersonal voice mail and call centers in third world countries, nothing works better.

By the way, if you do take the time to add a feature that a customer of yours requested, why not actually mention them in your advertising? Say that this idea was submitted by such and such customer and maybe even offer them a free upgrade as a thank you for the winning suggestion. This will encourage other customers to share their ideas and will make people feel as if your company is one of the few that actually cares about customers and doesn’t just take them for granted.

Offer Loyalty Services

I had a really sweet offer made to me a while back by PayPal where they gave me priority service and a expedited customer service, getting me straight to their most senior agents if I ever had a problem. The reason was that I’d done a certain amount of business with them within the course of a year and this made me qualify for a premier program.

You can adopt something similar in your own efforts by simply making your most loyal customers into VIPs. Give them early access to the latest software that your company puts out or let them know that if they ever need help, they have a personal account representative to talk to. In other words, make them feel like they’re more than just another number and they’ll love you for it.

Speaking of Customer Service…

I cannot stress this enough. One of the best ways to keep customers loyal to you is to have great customer service which is available and which follows through for them. Sure you could hire some call center in Bangladesh to handle all of your phone calls and give them a canned script to read whenever a customer calls with a complaint. However, the companies that really succeed actually take the time to offer customers personal service.

Empower whomever it is that you have working your help desk to help customers and not be obnoxious to them. I remember one person in particular whom I used to be a big fan of. The guy sent me a special offer on a product which was supposed to be for a limited time only. Then after the time expired, virtually the same product appeared on the page for a cheaper price. I complained and got a nasty response from the customer service person there.

In the end, it turned out that they guy just completely misunderstood and did half-heartedly apologize, telling me how they sometimes “fire” customers for being difficult. However, this should have come from the owner of the company and should have included more than a half-baked apology to me. I have never even bothered to open another e-mail from this guy since then.

Shoddy customer service is more likely than anything else to make your customers run away in droves so don’t skimp on this. Do it right.

Make Yourself Unique

Finally, if you are truly intent on holding onto your customers, you need to offer them a really good reason to stick with you as opposed to the competition. This should include great customer service and personalized efforts on their behalf however, there should also be that one thing that you offer which the competition doesn’t have to offer.

You need to put your unique fingerprint on anything your company creates,

You need to put your unique fingerprint on anything you create.

What that one thing would be is something that you have to figure out for yourself of course. However, ultimately, if you can find a way to make your own offerings unique and desirable, you are more likely to hold onto your customers rather than constantly needing to develop new ones. Be it different features or a different structure for upgrades or anything else, that one thing that makes your company unique needs to be your signature offering, the reason why people will stay with you.

Oh and as I’ve said in this space many times in the past, whatever you do, don’t try to compete exclusively on price. You will lose every time because your price inevitably be beat. There has to be something else that you can offer which is unique if you want to succeed. Here’s to your success!

20 Incredibly Useful Websites You Didn’t Know Existed

useful websitesThe Internet is a vast and wondrous place with hundreds of millions and likely billions of different websites of all shapes and sizes. However, in spite of the fact that there are so many wonderful websites out there, there are a great many that you likely have never heard of and never will hear of unless you read an article like this.

I’ve scoured the web to find the best of the best in order to share them with you, our loyal readers. Here are 20 of my favorite websites which you likely have never heard of before. Hope you enjoy them:

Every Stock Photo

I admit that I’ve mentioned this a couple of times in the past but it’s worth mentioning again here because it is by far one of the most useful sites that most people still seem never to have heard of. Every Stock Photo is a great website to have at your disposal. It is a meta search service which literally lets you find material from more than a dozen other sites which offer stock photos.

They have something like 30,000,000 photos available. I do find that the search options tend to be a bit wonky and of course like most sites that offer free photos, they are extremely top heavy with scenery and have a lot less content useful for stock work. You also need to register with the individual sites they link to in order to actually download the content but ultimately, it’s still a great website to use.

Every Stock Photo

Down for Me or For Everyone

Every now and then, I come across a website which I need to use and I find that it’s down. The question of course, is it just not working for me for some reason or is it not working for anyone at all anywhere? A quick visit to this website will allow you to check whether or not the site in question happens to be down for or just not functioning correctly on your website.

Coursera

Ever wanted to learn how to do basic PHP coding? Want to learn what it takes to build a website? Or maybe you have more advanced desires. While you won’t get an official certification or degree, you can definitely learn everything you want to know about almost any subject under the sun on Coursera. This website lists courses from some of the top universities on the planet, all in English and all for free.

coursera

Of course it’s not just about Internet Marketing or coding. There are courses on all kinds of things such as history, sociology and everything in between. Most of the courses are the same courses that people pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for at the best universities around. You get the same lectures and the same exam materials as well as a full curriculum. The only thing you don’t get is to ask questions from the professor and you don’t get to receive a grade at the end.

Hubspot Blog Topic Generator

I am really loving this service. I know that I’ve been blocked in the past and needed to find some kind of an idea for the blogs I run. I often look to see what other people in the field are doing however, with this service, I don’t have to. Give the folks at Hubspot three very general topics (nouns actually) that your blog is about and they’ll generate five ideas for you to write about right now.

blog topic generator

I gave the service a spin with some very basic topics such as SEO, Internet Marketing and Make Money Online. While the results are not awe inspiring, it does make it easier to come up with some good ideas if you’re feeling blocked.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator

While the Hubspot service does tend to make for some useful if slightly generic content ideas, Portent’s Content Idea Generator makes for truly irreverent titles. I punched in Internet Marketing and well, you can see below what it came up with for me. Is it useful? That’s a definite maybe. I mean every now and again, I do like to be whimsical so I suppose this could do the job but ultimately, the previous site is a better choice.

content idea generator

Hemingway

I’ve got to say that I am seriously loving the Hemingway web app. This thing is a great service where you basically paste in content that you’ve written and it will tell you what you need to know about. For example, the paragraph on Every Stock Photo was rated as being written on an 11th grade level.

hemingway

They also suggest that one of the sentences I wrote was difficult to read but I tend to disagree. Either way, this is a great service for anyone trying to ensure that they get their writing right and make it look the way it needs to look.

On Page Optimization Tool

This tool is great for those who need to ensure that their writing is optimized for search engines. It will check a variety of different factors and tell you whether or not what you wrote fits the bill. Of course, you still need to ensure that whatever you wrote also makes sense for human beings since the content needs to be useful to your customers too.

After the Deadline

This service works similarly to the way that Hemingway works in that it will check your spelling and grammar and the like. However, I personally didn’t find it nearly as useful, both because it only work with Chrome (I’m a Firefox man myself) and because it doesn’t seem to offer the same kind of easy to understand format that Hemingway offers. However, it is a very useful tool to know about all the same.

Readability Test Tool

Yet another service to check whether or not your content is well written, this service is also not my favorite of the three. Unlike Hemingway, it gives you a lot more raw data to work with, providing a number of different scores and breaking it all down for you. However, what I don’t happen to like very much is the fact that it seems that’s all it does. Hemingway is much more natural in offering me clear and concise information about my writing.

Readability Test Tool

Tweriod

When tweeting, you need to know how to come up with something pithy to say in just 140 characters. However, that’s not the only thing that you need to know how to do. You also need to know when to send out your tweets in order to ensure that they’ll get the maximum exposure. Tweriod is designed to provide you with that kind of information so that you’ll be able to get the maximum benefit from your tweets.

tweriod

10 Minute Mail

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – an e-mail address that is good for just 10 minutes. This is the perfect e-mail address if you wanted to sign up for some kind of website which you don’t want to give out your real e-mail address to. Of course, it’s also possible that the website in question will know which domains are used there and block you so your mileage may vary.

WhatTheFont

Ever see a website which looks really cool and which has a great looking font but which you couldn’t quite place? I know I’ve occasionally seen fonts used on other sites that I wanted to use for my own stuff but I had no way to match them. Now I can – WhatTheFont will tell you exactly which font was used for pretty much any image that you upload to it. Note that you need to click the link for WhatTheFont at the link above. For whatever odd reason, a direct link doesn’t work correctly.

Online Etymology Dictionary

Not the most useful website for those doing Internet Marketing or SEO but I’m including it here because I can see it potentially being something that will help you out sometime. Basically, you put in a word and it will tell you the etymology of the word in question. I can see it being useful for someone doing some writing work but again, not a super useful site but still pretty interesting overall.

online etymology dictionary

Check what it came up with for Lilliputian for example. Note that you do need to spell the word correctly for the site to work. It doesn’t do automatic spell check.

FlipText

This could be useful for designing websites at least on occasion or maybe it could at least be mildly interesting. The site will flip text for you and allow you to copy it out and paste it into your website. It seems the text complies with ASCII characters so it will work right out of the box and can then be set up with whatever font you like. ˙ʇxǝʇ pǝddıןɟ ǝɯos ɟo ǝןdɯɐxǝ uɐ sı sıɥʇ.

Word Frequency Counter

Another useful if very simple tool. This one will count how many times a particular word appears in the text that you paste into it. Useful but frankly, I can just easily do a count using Microsoft Word and the find feature. That said, if you need it  for SEO purposes, this is a nice little tool to know about.

Strip Creator

I have to admit that this one is good but it does require you to come up with some creative story ideas of your own. In essence, Strip creator allows you to create a customized comic strip. You can choose from a limited number of artist’s work if you need to use the strip outside of the site (which I assume you would need to do if you want it for IM). Check the FAQ for details on that.

strip creator

The creation of the strip is pretty simple but of course, you need to be creative about what you write. I admit that my efforts below were not exactly the best but it works to at least show you how the thing works.

Account Killer

I just really liked this service because it can be useful for pretty much anyone. It doesn’t really do a whole lot for SEO and IM people though I can see it being useful if you need to delete an account and start over. Basically, it allows you to completely delete pretty much any kind of social media account that you’ve ever created.

Date Duration

This one is great if you’re trying to create a sale on your website and you want to specify how many days are left before the sale happens. It basically lets you plug in two different dates and find out how much time there is between the two of them.

CScore

This is a nice little website which can offer you some insight into your Facebook page and how popular it actually is. I tested several different Facebook pages on the site to see what it would come up with and found it a little odd. One page I own which is not terribly popular got a rating of 5 but Amazon’s page had a rating of just 41. Kind of odd I thought…

conversation score

Screenr

No need to pay for expensive software to create your screenshots and video presentations. Screenr does the whole job for free and it works straight from the web. This site is really awesome and it will help you to build videos that you can incorporate onto your own website. It’s really a great service and the best part is that it’s completely and totally free. There is however a paid version of the same website available with additional features.

screenr

What about You?

So, what are some of your favorite hidden websites? Share them with us in the comments section below. I’d love to know what they are why they’re sites that you think should be included in this list. If anyone gives me some good ideas, I’ll be happy to add them into my original list as it appears above so don’t be shy. Tell us all what you like and what you want to see put out there.

4 Mistakes You Are Making Which Cost You Customers

mistakeWe all do it – make silly mistakes over and over again which turn off our customers and which get people to walk away and forget about shopping with us. However, there’s absolutely no reason why we should make these mistakes except perhaps that we don’t realize that we’re making them. So, based on my research, here are four of the most common mistakes online marketers make which costs them customers:

Being a Clone

There’s an old saying – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now while it’s true that you can learn a great deal from some of the great websites out there such as Amazon.com or Fiverr, it’s important to also do something to make your own website into something which looks unique and which has something to offer other than just a copy of the big boys.

So why exactly is this a problem though? After all, if it’s good enough for someone like Amazon or eBay or Fiverr then surely it must work and that means that if I copy them, I’ll be able to make lots of money too, right? In fact, there are companies that use exactly this idea. I can’t tell you how many clones of Fiverr I’ve seen for example.

Fiverr Clones

These guys literally copies Fiverr word for word and have the exact same design, often with the same colors and the same design. Sometimes, they’ll change it up only in the amount of money they charge – some are $10, some $20. Of course, there are the Fiverr clones which simply work exactly the same way, right down to charging five bucks for a gig.

The problem of course is that everyone knows who Fiverr is. They know that Fiverr is likely to have the services that they need because well, it’s Fiverr. So why the heck are they going to look at your me too website and try to find a gig with the handful of people desperate enough to advertise on your much less trafficked site?

Moreover, Fiverr has built up their business over time to the point where they know that they can count on a certain number of people simply typing in their domain name and going to look for what they need without the need to do SEO or other kinds of advertising. In short, you are not Fiverr and you likely don’t have the budget to create a clone which gets as popular as they are.

Instead, consider creating your own unique draw for your website and allow people to see that you have something unique to offer. It may be as simple as offering different pricing structures (i.e. $10, $20, etc.) though that’s been done to death as well. Instead, maybe consider doing something where you vet people who want to advertise on your site and you guarantee that the people doing the work know what they’re doing and won’t screw up.

I know that I’d gladly pay extra for that kind of a service, especially if I was given some kind of a guarantee that there will be someone to intervene if there’s a problem later on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a gig on Fiverr only to be disappointed with the results.

Mind you, I know that when people earn just $4 for a gig they can’t spend much time doing it but even so, I’d rather pay extra and know that I’m getting what I need rather than pay a cheap price and find that it’s a crap shoot. Worse, when I find someone good, inevitably they’re going to leave Fiverr pretty soon because they can make more elsewhere.

Confusing the Heck Out of Your Visitors

Okay, now that I just got through telling you about how you shouldn’t just imitate the greats, I’m going to reverse myself and tell you that in some cases, you should imitate them. At least insofar as how to design a website which is easy to use.

If you think that having about a million different ads everywhere and having all kinds of different forms of navigation is a good thing because it makes your site unique, you are sorely mistaken. I wrote about this once before when I mentioned The Jerusalem Post as a prime example of a website with terrible design and navigation, mostly because it has so many different ads, not to mention an obnoxious auto-refresh feature.

badly designed site

Of course, they aren’t the only ones engaged in poor design. Unfortunately, there are lots of well meaning webmasters who never seem to have figured out that they need to keep things clean and simple. You want a website which is easy and intuitive to navigate. That means the cutesy menus which seem to pop up out of nowhere are not the kind of thing you want to use.

Basically, a drop down menu like most websites use today is a good thing and something that will keep your visitors happy and content as they visit your site and make purchases from it. In other words, follow the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. If you do that, you won’t drive your customers crazy and they’ll agree to stick around longer.

Refusing to Accept PayPal Payments

Listen, I know that PayPal is nothing great. I wrote a while back about why PayPal was nothing to write home about and I know that there are a number of Internet marketers who have had all manner of trouble with taking PayPal payments. I’ve heard all the horror stories about accounts being frozen for months with hundreds of thousands of dollars in them and about the byzantine way that PayPal sometimes treats people.

I have only one thing to say: get over it and find a way to accept PayPal anyway. If you can’t accept it yourself because of a problem you had with them in the past, use one of the many payment processor services such as Plimus which do accept them. Bottom line is that you will ultimately find that you are able to get that many more customers if you accept PayPal in one way or another.

paypal

Of course, it also helps if you have some other alternative service which you can use to accept credit cards because not everyone can or wants to use PayPal to make their payments. Bottom line, offer PayPal and offer some kind of alternative as well because your customers will not be happy if you don’t have both options available.

Crazy Forms

This is something else I’ve written about in the past but it’s worth mentioning again. Make your forms standardized and easy to use. Please. Your customers will thank you for it. People get annoyed as heck when forms aren’t designed to be easy to use. This includes building forms which are intuitive to fill in and which aren’t hard to read.

I’ve also seen an awful lot of different forms which are designed to reset themselves if you make a wrong move. I cannot tell you how incredibly annoying that is! If you create a form which forces people to start over again if they make a mistake, I can guarantee that an awful lot of your customers will disappear.

badly designed form

Also, don’t make people crazy about passwords. On the one hand, you do want to ensure that your customers pick passwords which are protected and which cannot easily be broken. On the other hand, if all they’re doing is registering for your blog in order to leave a comment, they don’t need to pick a 25 character random password in order to sign up. Simple, basic passwords will do for such things.

Oh and again, if someone picks a password which your system doesn’t like, let them know automatically rather than making them hit submit and then wonder why they’re back at the basic form. Never mind the insane forms which actually have people filling everything out over again when they pick a bad password.

One more thought regarding forms. I know that a lot of you now employ captchas to try to cut down on the robots which seem to proliferate throughout the web. Of course, you probably also know that captchas are now pretty easy to get around using any number of different services which are designed to automatically get past them.

However, one of the worst ideas that you could possibly engage in is to make people crazy filling out the whole form over again because they didn’t fill in the captcha correctly. Oh and offer an option to have the captcha read out to people and to have another one randomly generated too. Some of them are hard even for human beings to read, never mind computers.

Bottom Line

As I’ve said in the past, you simply need to put yourself into your customer’s shoes if you want to ensure that they’ll be kept happy and coming back for more of whatever it is that you have for sale. People will appreciate it and they’ll keep coming back for more.

by EricHammer, on       Comments are off for this post