Putting the Customer First: The Importance of Surveys for Professional Services

What used to be a rarity is now commonplace: companies want your feedback. Whether you buy a product online, see a health care professional, or have your accountant provide tax advice, you likely expect to receive a follow-up email or text asking you to rate your experience. Increased competition, online review sites, social media, and savvy consumers continue to drive businesses to seek feedback to gauge customer experiences.

And yet, many businesses fail to invite consumers to rate and comment on their experience. This is a missed opportunity that ultimately impacts long-term client satisfaction and the company’s bottom line. Today, we explore why many professional services businesses are hesitant to ask for feedback and how they can overcome their fear of the process. Whether you provide legal, consulting, accounting, engineering, or other business-related services, implementing a customer experience program will set you apart from the competition.

Here are just a few common reasons why professional services fail to survey their clients:

  • The client will not reply, so why bother?
  • Fear of negative reviews and uncertainty of how to respond.
  • Customer feedback programs are too expensive to implement.
  • My clients have all the information they need.
  • Because the company is small, the professional service provider already knows what its clients think or need.

All of the above are common myths. Every business should consistently seek client feedback about its product or service. If companies are not asking for feedback, they are missing out on significant opportunities to:

  • Improve business operations.
  • Enhance customer loyalty.
  • Turn a negative experience into a positive outcome.
  • Encourage “social proof” by urging users to rate and review your products and services experiences on online reputation platforms.
  • Tweak product or service offerings to better align with their customer base.
  • Identify areas of opportunity to reach new customers or fill a gap in the market.

Capturing Customer Insights

Luckily, there are numerous resources that professional services can use to solicit feedback, such as:

  • Live Chat
  • Customer satisfaction software
  • End of engagement email surveys via SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Polldaddy
  • Face-to-face surveys
  • Telephone surveys
  • Hard copy surveys with a personalized letter from senior management
  • Any combination of the above

Businesses should carefully reflect on which option will likely generate the most participation and meet the outlined goal. For example, are you surveying many clients about their general perceptions of the business, or is the survey targeted to a handful of “key” clients who represent a significant portion of the firm’s revenue? Complex services such as legal or accounting will benefit from using face-to-face surveys or telephone surveys. Additionally, experience shows that clients are more likely to respond when going through a neutral, third-party source to give honest responses.

Professional services organizations can also take advantage of online tools tailored toward their unique needs and insights. Companies such as SoGoSurvey and ClearlyRated offer secure platforms to conduct online legal surveys and analyze feedback.

More specifically, ClearlyRated provides Net Promoter® Score surveys to measure and improve customer loyalty. Many customers weigh others’ opinions heavily when deciding which firm to engage with, so maintaining a positive reputation is essential. Survey results can complement reputation management efforts by showing businesses where there are opportunities for improvement.

But keep your expectations realistic – you’re unlikely to achieve a 100% participation rate, but that’s OK; even a 10% response rate can provide valuable information. Consistently fine-tuning the customer experience will increase customer loyalty and set you apart from the competition.

Creating Meaningful Survey Questions

One frequent pitfall that many businesses succumb to is not planning BEFORE launching a survey. Rather than asking vague, generic questions that have little value when it comes to measuring satisfaction or how to improve, focus on specific, targeted questions around crucial aspects of the business. For instance, break down experiences into essential points, such as:

  • Was the professional and/or team responsive to your questions or concerns?
  • Did we clearly explain our fees and billing structure based on the scope of the project?
  • Did we exceed your expectations?
  • Did we keep you informed about the progress of the project/matter?
  • How likely they are to recommend the company/product/service to others.

Have a plan for the type of information you want to collect and how and who will respond to any customer concerns. Remember to keep the survey short; no more than six to eight questions for optimal client response. Additionally, it’s helpful to mix up the types of questions by providing a variety of multiple-choice, scale ratings, yes/no, or short-answer depending on what kind of information you want to elicit. Also, let customers know up-front approximately how long the survey is expected to take and why their feedback is important. Finally, always thank them for their time and participation.

Managing Feedback

When implementing a client experience program, a business must commit to accept and act upon ALL feedback. Just because a company doesn’t like a response doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Clients expect that their opinions and concerns are not only heard but addressed promptly. Ignoring negative feedback can result in the client airing the grievance online, which can quickly tarnish a company’s reputation.

For example, if several people respond that the business is not responsive to returning phone calls or emails, be prepared to execute change quickly. This could mean creating a policy of a 24-hour timeframe for replying – and sticking to it! Note the change on the company website, and other social media venues, so clients know that you listened to their concerns and care. Implementing positive changes can mean not only a greater financial return but also improved customer loyalty.

If a specific client has an issue, senior management should be ready to step in and personally address the problem promptly. This simple act can go a long way in forging improved relationships. It shows clients that they matter.

Implementing Client Satisfaction Surveys

Are you ready to take the next step? Implementing a plan for a client experience program for your business or professional services firm can be easier than you think. Working with a marketing professional such as YGL Enterprises can help you implement a plan that fits your business’s unique needs and generates the type of feedback you can use to drive continued success. Contact YGL Enterprises today to learn more and develop a focused strategy to realize marketing solutions.

 

Yvonne Levine, Charlotte NC-based Marketing Consultant Provider of strategic marketing solutions and brand management.Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, this approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.


Navigating the Ups and Downs Through Online Reputation Management

Reputation plays an integral role in a business’ success or failure. A negative review or poor experience can spread like wildfire in today’s digital world, making online reputation management a must when companies are crafting their marketing strategy. It is not enough to deal with issues as they arise and hope for the best; being proactive and having a plan can help curb problems and build brand trust.

According to Reputation X, “Americans tell more people about poor service (15 people on average) than about good experiences (11).” Online review sites such as Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and numerous industry-specific rating sites are some of the places customers visit when researching a business or want to share their experience. That means that you must continuously monitor these platforms and respond to customer comments.

Respond to both negative and positive comments. Remember the adage, “Silence is golden”? This saying does NOT apply in today’s consumer-savvy world. Quickly addressing a customer’s complaint to learn more about the issue and providing a positive resolution shows consumers that the business listens and cares. Otherwise, negative reviews can have a damaging effect on a company’s brand. Learn from what people are saying to implement meaningful changes and prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.

At the same time, build trust and relationships by replying to customers who had a positive experience and thanking them for sharing. Many companies focus only on the negative reviews when showing appreciation for 5-star reviews can also be beneficial. Reputation X notes that “Every additional one-star Yelp rating causes an increase in the business’s revenue as high as 9%” (e.g., improving from a 3-star rating to a 4-star rating) while “reviews that only gave 1 or 2 stars failed to convert 86% of prospective customers.”

Consumers trust online reviews, so making a conscious effort to get more people to share their positive experiences and turn around the perceptions of people who had a poor experience can boost your bottom line.

How to Manage Online Reputation More Effectively

The vast amount of information available on the Internet can be overwhelming. Combing through search results can be tedious and still leave gaps in data.

Take advantage of online reputation management tools. You don’t have to scour the Internet by hand. Programs like Google Alerts, Social Mention, Reputology, Trackur, and Mentionlytics do the work for you and put data at your fingertips. You can track your online brand presence and see where your business name and other keywords you select are popping up in articles, reviews, and comments across the Web. Alerts can let you know where to focus your attention and what issues you need to stay on top of before they get out of hand.

Leverage social listening. These tools can also play an integral role in crafting a transparent reputation management strategy. Engage with your audience on social media. Monitor all of your relevant channels and remember to:

  • Respond quickly and consistently.
  • Answer questions.
  • Resolve problems.
  • Acknowledge recommendations.
  • Offer solutions.
  • Build connections.

Set expectations internally regarding who has the authority to respond and offer compensation, and determine what issues require management approval. Train your frontline employees on how to respond professionally and not engage in emotional conversation online.

Building a Positive Reputation Takes Time: Get Started Today

Just one negative comment can cancel out the impact of dozens of positive ones. Remember, once a business has broken the consumer’s sacred trust, it takes a long time to rebuild its brand and reputation. Stay on top of online reputation management so you know exactly where your business stands and what people are saying. Your marketing strategy needs to not only focus on how to ensure customers have a positive experience, but also how to minimize the impact if they do not.

Through YGL Enterprises’ “Focused Strategy – Marketing Solutions Realized” approach, we help you incorporate online reputation management as part of your overall marketing strategy and effectively manage your brand presence online and off. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!

 

Author Bio:

Yvonne Levine, Charlotte NC-based Marketing Consultant Provider of strategic marketing solutions and brand management.Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services organizations and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, this approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.


How to Strengthen Your Marketing Strategy Through Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis seems to be a "no brainer." However, I think that we can all agree that business leaders, managers, and marketing professionals frequently forget to incorporate consistent scrutiny, examination, and monitoring of the competition as part of their marketing strategy. Sure, we say that we know our competition, but it's usually on a superficial level. One of the first questions that I ask a new client is, "Who are your competitors?" The typical client response is a shortlist of competitor names, with little accompanying information. So what is missing?

A lot!

Any marketing strategy must take into consideration what is happening at other businesses, not just your own. By understanding and monitoring your competitors' offerings, e.g., size, marketing campaigns, rankings, ease of contact, unique offers, and customer engagement, you can adjust your marketing efforts to better align your company with your target customers' needs.  To do this, you will need to conduct a comprehensive competitive analysis.

What is Competitive Analysis?

Entrepreneur.com defines competitive analysis as the following:

"Identifying your competitors and evaluating their strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to those of your own product or service."

A detailed competitive analysis can provide insight into:

  • Industry trends.
  • What products/services are similar to yours, and how you can differentiate yourself.
  • How competitors are marketing their products/services.
  • What your competitors are doing right and where they are falling short.
  • Your value proposition as it relates to the competition.
  • What customers are saying about competitor services.

Identifying Your Competitors

To get started, identify businesses that share the same competitive space and whose products or services are similar to your offerings. But remember, just because a business is in the same industry does not necessarily mean it is a direct competitor. For instance, a law firm that focuses on family law will have little impact on a firm that focuses on commercial real estate or employment law.

Competitive analyses take time, so pick the top three or four competitors rather than a list of a dozen or more. A quick way to find out who you're up against is to conduct a keyword search via Google

You can also leverage search listening or social listening to gather more insight. Investigate:

  • What brands are consumers talking about?
  • What products or services receive the most recommendations?
  • What are customers saying in their reviews?

Finding Where You Fit In

The better you understand your competition, the easier it is to take advantage of unmet customer needs. If you want to boost sales of a particular service, look at how others are marketing similar services, what is most attractive about their offer, and how their service measures up. You may find notable differences in pricing, warranties, customer loyalty programs, and convenience offerings.

By studying and evaluating the data against your businesses' offerings, you begin to develop a clearer picture of your standing in the marketplace, where there are opportunities for improvement, and ways you can refine your own sales process.

Measuring Up - Where Marketing is Taking Place

A competitive analysis examines not just the sales volume but how a competitor interacts with the consumer. Spend time reviewing your competitors' websites and social media. Take note of things such as:

  • Social media channels and engagement.
  • Audience response to blog topics.
  • What topics are generating the most likes, shares, and comments.
  • Marketing platforms: Is the competition using video, podcasts, webinars, or eBooks?
  • How customers can connect.
  • Campaigns and promotions.

Studies have shown that recommendations on social networks are the most significant driver for consumer purchases, with 37% of consumers finding purchase inspiration through the channel. If you're not keeping pace with your major competitors, you're losing out on potential sales.

Adjust your marketing approach based on your research and how those changes may better position your company. Actions may include:

  • Revamping your website to include FAQ or customer testimonials.
  • Providing in-depth information about your products or services, including tutorials, chat boxes, or hotlines.
  • Building an editorial calendar that focuses on topics customers are most interested in or where you have expertise.
  • Establishing a presence on different social media sites such as LinkedIn, Instagram, or YouTube to present your products/services in a new way.

How Often Should I Conduct a Competitive Analysis

The primary purpose of market research is to provide a business with current and relevant information about trends, opportunities, and threats in the marketplace. Every day, a new business is launched, and an existing business closes its doors. Therefore, systematic market research is a necessity. I recommend conducting research, at least quarterly, if not monthly. However, a new product or service launch or a territory expansion necessitates further analysis.

Boosting Your Marketing Efforts

Effective marketing is flexible and forward-thinking. Balancing a macro approach with a microfocus (think tactical) enables you to create a marketing strategy with all of the elements necessary to position your business as a leader within your space. Use the data about what your competitors are doing to challenge yourself to do better and fine-tune your marketing plans.

Once you define your goals, you can implement strategies to generate positive results. You don't have to reinvent the wheel; just tailor your efforts to align with your unique selling proposition and target audience.

Conducting a competitive analysis should be a starting point when it comes to developing a marketing plan. YGL Enterprises can help you gather all of the information and insight you need – and decipher what it means for your business. Contact us today to get the process started.

Yvonne Levine, Charlotte NC-based Marketing Consultant Provider of strategic marketing solutions and brand management.Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services organizations and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, the approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.


Planning for a New Year: 6 B2B Marketing Strategy Projections for 2021

Heading into the new year, there are many takeaways from 2020 that can help shape some marketing strategy projections for 2021. Current events have, certainly, shredded our planning documents and made a mockery of our expectations. Does that mean we should stop evaluating, planning, and developing strategies to market our business? Absolutely not!

No one expected a global pandemic, environmental crises, and social unrest to create such a massive disruption in our lives, economy, and society. No industry was left untouched, or human experience unaltered. However, I'm a firm believer that change provides new opportunities and new ways of thinking. Life is not static; therefore, our marketing approach should not stay the status quo. Because 2020 forced us to adapt or die, now is the time to reflect and prepare for 2021. During this crisis and beyond, you can maintain and even gain a competitive advantage by investing more, not less, in your marketing strategy.

Here, we'll explore what we expect to see in B2B marketing strategies for next year:

  1. A re-evaluation of COVID-related changes.

Even before COVID, B2B marketing was dramatically evolving as consumers continue to have a vast array of information at their fingertips. The pandemic accelerated the desire and need for quality content and accurate information. Marketers should carefully review and analyze their marketing initiatives over the past nine months, and then thoroughly evaluate that period's successes and failures.  Ask yourself:

  • What did you offer, and did it resonate with your prospects?
  • Was your messaging on point, or did you lead with the same tired words about your product or service?
  • What marketing tactics will carry-over because they better meet customer needs and demands?
  • Which ones will fade out as business operations return to some semblance of pre-pandemic days?

Virtual consultations, online events, or appointment apps are here to stay, even as we return to the pre-pandemic lifestyle. The best strategy is to incorporate a combination of tactics with the flexibility to respond and act as market conditions warrant.

  1. More strategic budgets.

Has your business adjusted to doing more with less? Many businesses had to re-prioritize spending and make cuts to certain areas. Some smaller B2B businesses were already running their marketing programs on a shoestring budget. Then COVID-19 forced many companies to invest in online marketing outreach for the first time to compete with the competition. It was about surviving, not maintaining the status quo. Think content marketing, email campaigns, and virtual education.

Take a close look at your current marketing strategies and budget, then adjust your plan accordingly. As we move into the new year, businesses will continue to face extraordinary challenges just to stay open. Marketing must be a dedicated part of the plan. If consumers can't find you online, you have little chance of ending 2021 on a positive note. Be creative to get the most significant return on investment.

  1. A prioritization of digital advertising.

With more people working remotely, online interactions have soared. In a recent McKinsey & Company post, the writer notes, "With continued pressure on household income, consumers continue to try new brands and channels, with convenience and better value being the primary drivers of the new behavior. Three out of four American consumers have tried a new shopping behavior, and most intend to continue the new shopping behavior even after COVID-19 subsides." Therefore, virtual engagement is here to stay, as all of us have become more tech-savvy and more budget-conscious. Therefore, businesses must continue to invest in digital marketing activities. As a reminder, your total marketing budget should usually be between 5% and 15% of your total revenue, and businesses should allocate 10%-50% to digital marketing. These marketing activities include:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Pay Per Click (PPC)
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Native Advertising
  • Marketing Automation/CRM
  • Email Marketing

All businesses should continue to invest in at least a few of these areas. At a minimum, SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing should be the basis of any digital marketing strategy.

  1. The human touch and user experience.

Marketing strategies in 2021 will continue to emphasize personalized content and a commitment to sustainability and social justice by putting a human touch on how the business presents itself and showing an understanding of what is important to customers. With the launch of Google's Page Experience Update set to launch in May 2021, it will be more essential than ever for marketers to focus on the totality of the user's experience on a website. Google wants users to enjoy their experience and will reward those websites that "show the love." Check out Neil Patel's recent blog for more information.

  1. A focus on data-driven decision making.

Along the same lines, data will continue to play an integral role in 2021 marketing strategies. Businesses will continue to use and invest in data analytics tools to understand how users think and interact with your brand. Accessing and evaluating data should be an integral part of every business's marketing strategy. Some of the best analytic tools I've found include Google Analytics, Google Trends, Answerthepublic, keywordtool.io, and Hubspot.

Be intentional about using data to guide decision making and deliver value.

  1. Optimization of social media marketing.

New social platforms will continue to evolve, while others become less relevant. Marketers will continue to use social media to expand brand awareness and facilitate leads. Targeted marketing applies to social just as it does with other marketing tactics. Remember, not every social media platform is right for every type of marketing.

Bottom line: know your audience and how they gather information before selecting a social media venue. Facebook is relatively universal and allows for advertising, linking, videos, images, and conversation. Twitter does much of the same, but messages are shorter and more concise. Instagram is ideal for eye-catching graphics, images, and videos. LinkedIn targets the B2B space and continues to update their offerings to compete with the other major platforms.

Building an Effective Marketing Plan

These marketing strategy projections for 2021 will give your business a starting point for kicking off the new year. No one knows what the next 12 months may hold, so while you may be drafting marketing plans for the entire year, when it comes to execution, focus on two or three months at a time and adjust accordingly.

Now more than ever, be strategic with spending and where you concentrate your marketing efforts. Partner with YGL Enterprises to develop a clear strategy and targeted solutions to support your business moving forward. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

 

Author Bio:

Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services organizations and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, this approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.


Why Patience is Key When Developing a Marketing Strategy

Developing an effective marketing strategy that consistently drives results is a marathon, not a sprint. Did you know that it can take between six months and one year to start seeing meaningful results from your marketing efforts? It takes time to gain momentum and determine if your strategy is reaching and converting your target audience.

Don’t forget that developing a strong foundation is just the first step in creating a successful marketing plan.

Begin the process with:

  • Defined goals
  • Detailed personas
  • Well-researched SEO and keywords
  • Targeted content
  • An optimized website
  • Key performance indicators

Based on the above directives, you begin to understand why it takes time and patience to see results.

Let’s drill down for a deeper understanding of one marketing component for reference.

Ranking for Your Website and Content

Think of the Internet as a vast global kingdom, and Google as the monarch. You can search for anything on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean every website or blog will appear on page one. Google uses bots and algorithms to rank websites and pages. Just because your business publishes incredible content doesn’t necessarily mean your target audience is reading it – but that also doesn’t mean you should stop.

Part of your marketing strategy should include the “whys and hows” of website ranking. There are numerous factors to consider:

  • Is it visually appealing?
  • Have you clearly defined your target audience?
  • Are you using landing pages?
  • What about link building?
  • Does each website include internal links?
  • Is it easy to navigate?

Paying careful attention to these details will help rank your website, but don’t expect miracles overnight. SEO takes time, particularly when the competition is high. Neil Patel, marketing guru extraordinaire, writes a lot about this subject.

As you begin to produce relevant, high-quality content consistently, you’ll start to build momentum. By linking to other reputable sites, gaining page shares and comments, and targeting the right keywords and phrases, your ranking will slowly improve. Be patient. You may be tempted to halt or dramatically change course after a couple of weeks, but this action can unravel thoughtful planning and positive results over the long term.

Remember, building trust and credibility take time, as well. Once a potential customer visits your site, your content and messaging should leave them wanting more. You need to capture their attention, so they click on other blogs or visit your service pages. Return visitors can be just as important as new visitors when it comes to marketing.

How Do I Know if My Marketing Strategy is Working?

Having patience is only one aspect of the marketing plan. Monitoring, surveying, analyzing, and adjusting are equally crucial to the process.

Set measurable goals. Use data analytic tools to your advantage so you can track how well your marketing strategies are performing. Measuring sales and web traffic are two of the easiest ways to determine if your marketing strategies are working. Use a tool like Google Analytics, which can easily calculate a broad range of data for any business; plus, it’s free. Begin with setting realistic expectations for growth or conversion rates. Aiming for a 50% increase in traffic or 100 leads within a month is likely setting yourself up for disappointment. Be reasonable, remain focused, and start small.

Avoid drastic changes. As noted above, the more changes you make to your marketing strategy in a short timeframe, the more difficult it is to gauge results. Resist the urge to continually pivot when things aren’t going as you had hoped. Remember, it can take several months to see actual results. Give your plan time to work and time to reach audiences and rank across the major search engines.

Make small adjustments. As you monitor progress, you may begin to see trends regarding what performs well, and what is of interest to customers. If blogs with videos or graphics are getting more hits, continue incorporating those features in future posts. If you’re getting a lot of traffic from a specific topic, consider building it out and going more in-depth; on the other hand, if there is another topic that is not doing well, move on for now. You can always readjust and come back to it later with a different approach.

Trust the Process

Our society thrives on instant gratification; people are easily distracted and expect immediate answers to their questions. If not, something must be wrong. Trust the process and give it time to work. Once you’ve done the research and put the pieces in place, you must take the long view. Marketing is a fluid process. As market conditions change and trends rise and fall, there are always opportunities to improve your plan.

If your business isn’t seeing results from its marketing efforts, it’s time to partner with YGL Enterprises. We can audit your current strategies, identify areas for improvement, and develop a plan tailored to your unique needs and goals. With the right tactics in place, positive results will follow. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!

Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services organizations and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, this approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Showing Gratitude with a Strong Customer Appreciation Strategy

Businesses need to show customers that they appreciate their business or risk losing market share over time. Having a strong customer appreciation strategy is essential to building a solid foundation for your business. Companies need to go the extra mile to drive and sustain customer loyalty. You want clients who are dedicated, value your brand and keep coming back. Customers like to feel that they really matter. If they don’t feel the love, they will quickly move on to another competitor. Keep in mind, the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times higher than retaining an existing one. Furthermore, selling to a current customer can be easier than selling to a new prospect.

To keep customers happy – and make those acquisition efforts more beneficial – start by putting a customer appreciation strategy in place. Take steps to let customers know that you value their business, and they are more than just another sale or a data point. A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way; just think about how it makes you feel when someone acknowledges you or your work, and you know that your efforts are recognized and appreciated.

Developing a Customer Appreciation Strategy

The first step is to have a solid understanding of your existing customer base. Using a CRM system can help as it allows you to quickly and effectively manage contact information, track sales history, document interactions, record interests and preferences, and much more. Leverage your existing data to identify your most loyal patrons and those who have the potential to grow.

Second, consider diversifying your customer appreciation strategy to align with different tiers of customers. Perhaps you want to offer a larger discount to those who regularly spend more with your business, are long-time accounts, or who have generated numerous referrals. You can also mix in other offers to your entire customer base. Figure out what works best for your business and audience, and track the results.

Appreciation Ideas Your Customers will Love

Once you determine who should receive an offer, you’ll need to figure out how to reward your customers. There are many creative options available that can easily convert a one-time customer to a loyal fan.

  • Regular communication. A simple way to show appreciation is to provide useful information about your product or service. Consider sending periodic newsletters, “tips of the day,” or even a short video to customers highlighting how to use your product. Follow up after a recent purchase to see how they like using your product or service, and if there are any questions.
  • Loyalty program. Start a program where customers can earn points based on how much they spend or how often they use your service. Everyone likes to receive a gift or obtain a special coupon based on their devotion to a particular brand.
  • Handwritten thank you. It’s a rare occurrence in today’s online world to receive a personal thank you note. Go that extra mile to pen a note to your most valued customers. Show that you appreciate their loyalty. You can even add something specific about your interaction to give it a more meaningful touch.
  • Recognition. Did one of your clients recently earn an award or get a promotion? Call, email, or write a note of congratulations. This simple act demonstrates that you care about a long-term relationship and not just the next sale. You could also give them a shout out on social media for being a valued customer.
  • Early access. Does your business have an upcoming event or promotion? Give devoted customers the chance to sign up or shop early. You could also host an event just for a select group of patrons to give back and do something special for them.
  • Provide an upgrade. For subscription-based customers, provide access to a new feature of your service. Even if on a trial basis, you have the opportunity to show customers what they are missing while reinforcing the value of your service.
  • Customer Appreciation Day. The official day is April 18. Use this day to make your customers feel special. Options include highlighting key customers, making a donation in their honor to your favorite charity, or providing a special one-day promotion as a thank you. Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day is a great example.
  • Personalized gift. How well do you know your customers? Surprise them with something aligned with their interests, such as a gift card to a restaurant they love, a small item to take on their next trip if they enjoy traveling, or a product from your business that you know they would like. Let them know they are not a faceless account in a crowd of many.

When customers know that you appreciate their business, they are more likely to keep coming back, spend more money, write a glowing review, and refer your products or services to others. Even if you’re not necessarily the cheapest option, they’ll be willing to pay a little more for the customer service and positive experience.

Show your customers that they are essential and that you care. YGL Enterprises can help you shape a customer appreciation strategy that aligns with your mission, brand, audience, and goals. Contact us today to get started and take your marketing approach to the next level.


How to Energize Your Professional Services Marketing

Actionable tips to elevate your marketing efforts and drive business opportunities.

Professional services firms are different than typical retailers in that they do not sell a tangible product per se; you aren’t walking out the door with the keys to a new car or the latest designer suit. Instead, they provide customers with valuable services such as legal representation if you are going through a divorce, consulting as you start up a new business, or financial guidance to maximize your investments.

MindTools.com describes professional services as the following:

“Professional services firms exist in many different industries. They include lawyers, advertising professionals, architects, accountants, financial advisors, engineers, and consultants. They can be any organization or profession that offers customized, knowledge-based services to clients.”

These firms generate around $1.8 trillion in combined annual revenue and account for around 900,000 businesses. Professional services providers work with people from all walks of life, and businesses large and small. But depending on their geographic location and their specific offerings, they can experience fierce competition in acquiring and maintaining customers. Additionally, today’s consumers are technology-savvy and know how to research their options, turning to social media, industry-specific rating websites, and referrals from family and friends, before ever reaching out to a business.

Because competition is high within many of these services industries, professional services firms must have a marketing plan that clearly defines the essential components, including target demographics, competition, marketing and promotional strategies, budget, and a clear understanding of the customer’s decision-making process.

8 Tips to Take Your Marketing to the Next Level

  1. Embrace social media. Social media is no longer a new trend; it has become the norm. According to Statista.com, around 3.6 billion people worldwide were using social media in 2020. Facebook alone has approximately 2.5 billion monthly active users and reaches more than 60% of Internet users globally. Additionally, 80 million businesses maintain a Facebook business page. If your business doesn’t have a presence on at least a few social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, now is the time to start. If your services lend themselves well to instructional or informational videos, consider hopping on YouTube or creating an informative podcast.
  2. Identify where and how your target audience searches for your service. Not every social media platform will provide the same “boost” when marketing your business. Familiarize yourself with each platform’s demographics to determine the best fit for your business. All professional services will benefit from a strong LinkedIn presence, but other media can also be useful in branding building. Facebook’s reach is universal, while Twitter relies on concise posts of 280 characters or less, and Instagram leverages the power of images, photos, and videos. As noted above, conducting market research about your target audience will provide valuable insight about which social media platforms are best suited for your marketing strategy.
  3. Get to know your audience through search listening. Search listening enables you to see how individuals are searching online; think keywords and phrases. Pay attention, then tailor your messaging to what customers truly want to know, rather than guessing or assuming you know their interests and concerns.
  4. Polish up your website. Think of your business website as the best representation of your company. Make sure your site projects a professional image, evokes confidence, and is easy to navigate. Post information that users want and need to know to not only position yourself as a leader in the industry, but to reassure potential customers that you understand their concerns, why they’re coming to you for service, and what you can do to solve their problems.
  5. Be genuine in your messaging. When content feels “salesy” and pushy, it is off-putting to customers. Treat your audience like you want to be treated. Build connections based on trust, honesty, and authenticity. Customers can see through an act, so provide a meaningful experience that motivates them to learn more about your services and continue the buyer’s journey.
  6. Incorporate infographics to explain how your service solves a customer’s problem. The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” still holds true today. Engaging visuals capture the reader’s attention and are an easy way to describe a complex concept. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter; have you heard of the 15-second rule? So give your audience a reason to stay on your site. Focus on your business’ value proposition. How will you save your customers time and money? How does your legal approach differ from the competition? How will your engineering software accelerate a company’s launch of new product lines?
  7. Always be networking. Attend professional association events where your target audience is likely to be. Make an effort to introduce yourself, then ask questions, and take the time to listen to their answers. Incorporate this feedback and make meaningful changes based on what customers want. Do they want the option of virtual consultations? A variation on a service you already offer, or a new one altogether?
  8. Recognize the stages of the buyer’s journey. A customer may not be ready to sign on the dotted line after the first time they meet you. They go through three distinct stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Tailoring your marketing activities to each step of the journey will keep you top-of-mind when they’re ready to hire a lawyer, contractor, or accountant.

Customers have a wealth of information at their fingertips, so your business must clearly and consistently define and promote its unique value proposition through targeted marketing strategies. YGL Enterprises can help you ensure your marketing strategy is the best fit for your business goals and objectives, and that it targets your desired audience. Contact us today to get started!


Driving Business Growth Through Referral Marketing

There are numerous ways to drive business growth. Today, we focus on one of the most powerful marketing tools, referral marketing. Think about how often you share your opinions with others when it comes to the best restaurants, doctors, financial advisors, salons, schools, or events. A friend asks, “Where did you get that suit?” and you happily tell your friend, colleague, or family member about the vendor and your experience. You may also go so far as to write a review online. These actions are the foundation of referral marketing.

What is Referral Marketing?

Simply put, referral marketing is a tactic that leverages recommendations to grow a business’ customer base through its network of existing customers, brand advocates, or other service providers, who can vouch for the businesses’ products, services, value, and reputation. If they’re happy with their experiences, they are much more likely to recommend your company to others, and this action can quickly expand your reach and enhance the quality of your leads.

Why Do Referrals Matter?

For one, referral marketing is cost-effective. Start with your Brand Promise. At the core of every successful business is the promise to develop trust with your customers by providing them with a superior experience.  Consistency and commitment are the drivers of referrals. Once you build trust and gain their loyalty, your customers will happily spread the word about their experience to others. Because your business has made them feel like a valued customer, when they hear someone else asking for recommendations, your business becomes top of mind.

Referrals are also valuable because they not only generate a higher volume of leads, but these leads tend to be of better quality because they are connected with people who already know about and use your products or services. This connection can make it easier to convert a lead into a customer. According to a Marketo report, “B2B marketers said the average conversion rate (from generating lead to converting sales) was 11% for referrals. Referrals beat all the other marketing channels by big margins when it came to conversion rates.”

Trust Can Make or Break a Referral

It all comes down to trust. Before you can expect referrals to start rolling in, you have to cultivate trust with customers and demonstrate that your business is true to its word and delivers on its promises. Once they are excited about your product/service and see how it has impacted their operations or life, then they are more apt to share their satisfaction with others. According to a Nielsen study, “84% of people trust recommendations from people they know. Making them the most influential form of advertising.”

Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t be afraid to ask existing customers for referrals when they show gratitude for the results you have produced. Encourage them to think about others who could benefit and share contact information.

Offer up a simple email template they can use when connecting with clients or colleagues who may be interested.

Educate your client base. Keep them informed of new products and services and, more specifically, how you help solve problems.

Check-in periodically to ensure that they’re still happy with your service and thank them for any referrals they have sent your way. Show appreciation for their efforts, whether it resulted in a sale or not.

But DON’T forget that trust can be easily broken and turn a loyal customer into an unhappy former supporter.  For instance, if an existing customer recommends your business to a friend or colleague, you had better be ready to deliver. If you miss a deadline or turn out an inferior product, not only does your company look bad, you’ve also made your referral source look bad, and you risk losing business from both parties. It also makes your current customer more cautious about whether or not they decide to refer your company to anyone else.

Part of the Bigger Picture

While referral marketing can generate significant returns, it should not be the sole source of marketing and new business development. Instead, it should be one piece of a broader strategic plan. A marketing strategy should encompass referrals, but it should also incorporate a mix of paid, owned, and other earned marketing. There is still value in designing targeted email campaigns, promotions, social media posts, advertisements, and other collateral. These pieces can help with growing brand awareness and developing trust and loyalty to stimulate continued referrals. Don’t underestimate your employees as strong brand advocates and referrers as well; have an internal marketing program in place to capture this business.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to developing a solid marketing strategy that fits your business’ goals and objectives. YGL Enterprises can ensure that you take all of the right components into consideration by auditing your current practices and designing a tailored plan moving forward. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can support your business today and in the future.


Search Listening: Exploring What Customers Truly Want to Know

Customers engage with content that interests them. Consumers are also fickle. Whether scrolling through social media, scanning news stories, or looking through search results, they click on headlines and topics that catch their eye. Therefore, businesses need to have a solid understanding of their customers' interests, concerns, and desires to develop a trust-worthy relationship. Unfortunately, businesses waste significant time and money creating social media and content campaigns that attract little interest and engagement. As I've noted in a previous blog, content marketing can be an effective way for businesses to expand their reach, increase brand awareness, drive leads, and position themselves as thought leaders. Still, first, companies need to leverage available data to their advantage.

That is where search listening comes in.

What is Search Listening?

search listening /ˈsərch ‘lis-​niŋ/ verb

  1. The monitoring of Google searches for thoughts and searches around your brand or specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries, followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities. "We need to understand our customers better. Let's do some search listening."
  2. An under-utilized method for gaining consumer insight, which can complement other more established methods. "We're kicking off our next project with a research phase, comprising a survey, focus groups, social listening, and search listening."

Searchlistening.com (2020). Retrieved from https://searchlistening.com.

Every day, Google logs more than 3 billion searches on a myriad of diverse topics ranging from "benefits of an electric toothbrush," to "where can I find the best sushi?" Search listening provides insights as to what people desire, fear, and aspire to be. By implementing a consistent search listening plan, companies can better target their marketing efforts, as well as provide higher-quality, better-focused content that matches their audience's interests. Also, search listening can uncover topics that marketers may not have thought of on their own, but that add value to the information they are sharing with customers.

How is Search Listening Different than Social Listening?

Social listening has been a trending buzzword recently, whereas search listening has not received as much attention – but that does not make it any less relevant. What makes search listening so valuable is that it provides authentic insight into the consumer's mind.

Social listening evaluates what people post on social media regarding their thoughts about a particular brand or product. Marketers can track viewers' feedback, engage in discussions, and ask questions to gather more information. However, what people share on social media is not always how they honestly feel. They often portray a finely crafted version of what they think people want to hear, or what they think makes them look good.

Search listening, on the other hand, relies on data from Google searches. People tend to be more honest and open when typing a question into a faceless search engine as opposed to asking for advice or answers from actual people. Businesses can use search listening to see the most common search queries related to a specific keyword or phrase. As a result, this puts keywords in a broader context and builds a clearer picture of their audience's thoughts and concerns.

For example, SEO may show that "savings account" is a frequently searched term, but what does that mean? Do people want to know how to open a savings account? How to close a savings account? How to transfer money from their checking account to their savings account? What is the interest rate on different types of savings accounts? Search listening offers this level of detail by showing entire search queries that allow businesses to drill down into data.

Harnessing the Power of Search Listening

Uncovering this data is simpler than you may think. One of the best search listening tools is Answer the Public. Users can run three free searches per day, or upgrade to pro, which offers more searches and features. The tool creates easy-to-understand visuals regarding search information that marketers can use to develop more effective content strategies and content calendars. Searches are categorized by type of question, such as how, why, when, which, who, where, or are, and they also show changes over time.

Another free resource is Google trends. This tool allows marketers to see what terms or topics are currently trending and also provides simple graphics to portray data. It shows how trends have changed over time, related topics and queries, and what parts of the world are searching the term the most.

With search listening, businesses can gather more detailed insight into their audience and provide content that aligns with what they genuinely want to know. Social listening and asking customers for feedback still have their place, but search listening complements these efforts and adds a new perspective. YGL Enterprises can assist you in doing a deep-dive into your marketing strategy and initiatives to uncover new opportunities, gaps, and areas for improvements to meet customer needs and business objectives better. Contact us today to get started!


Don’t Let Your Personal Brand Suffer During Self-Quarantine

As I look back over the past three months, I realize that the way we work is forever changed due to the restrictions of the global pandemic. Most of us dislike change, particularly when it is forced upon us, but we adapt. The ways we market our businesses and ourselves are part of the mix. Unfortunately, many of us have taken the “casual approach” now that we are stuck at home, relegated to a small converted workspace in our house in less than ideal conditions. Your business self and your personal self are no longer distinctly defined, but rather a blurred and somewhat messy version of the two.

So, why does this matter?

Because we still need to put our best self – our professional self – forward when conducting business. This means making an effort with our personal brand. If you go to an office or attend a client meeting, you want to present yourself professionally. You want to be taken seriously. You want to close the deal. You want people to respect you. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to invest time and energy into your personal brand. As I’ve noted in a previous blog, your personal brand is a collective perception of your professional assets and your reputation.

Zoom pulled back the curtain.

Blurred Lines

I’ve worked from home since 2008, so self-quarantine was not a big deal for me. Like most of us, when I’m at home, I like to be comfortable. If I don’t have any outside meetings, I’m in my yoga pants and t-shirt; no makeup, my hair has good days and bad. However, Zoom was a game-changer! I’ll never forget the first time that someone scheduled a Zoom meeting with me. I accepted but gave little thought to the mechanics of Zoom, i.e., visual vs. auditory-only. Ten minutes before the meeting, I realized that I was not the best, most professional version of myself. So, what did I do? I put a piece of tape over my computer’s camera and apologized to my prospect. We had a good laugh, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson: I need to be more aware of my personal brand when I’m in business-mode.

Another example of blurred lines occurred when I scheduled a #Zoom-meetingZoom meeting with a vendor who I felt could help one of my clients. I had met him previously and like his approach. When we met via Zoom, my immediate reaction was, “Dude, could you have at least combed your hair?” Here he was sitting in front of the camera, wearing a sweatshirt, and looked like he just rolled out of bed. On top of that, the room in the background showed junk piled everywhere! Yes, it was distracting, and it did give me pause about hiring him to work with my client.

Perceptions Matter

Seven seconds. That’s how long you have to make a first impression. While you can change someone’s perception of you over time, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that is usually the one that sticks. Therefore, we all need to be aware of which mode we are in, business vs. personal when we are meeting and interacting with others.

For professionals such as entrepreneurs, freelancers, and consultants, a  prospect’s or client’s #first-impressionfirst impression determines whether you secure the business or not. Think about what it says to you when you see someone wearing clean, pressed business attire with combed hair and a smile versus seeing someone wearing a wrinkled t-shirt, messy hair, and a tired look on their face. Who are you more apt to want to do business with based solely on your first impression?

Working from home and holding meetings over Zoom is not an excuse to be lazy or unprofessional. Get ready as if you were going into the office or meeting the client at their place of business. Make sure you look presentable and have your materials prepared so you can speak professionally. Pick a spot with a clean background, even if that means working against a blank wall. If your makeshift home office leaves something to be desired, consider uploading a general office background to use on Zoom so your client isn’t distracted by anything they may see around you and can focus on the discussion at hand.

Be True to Your Brand

You have a short amount of time to capture your client’s attention and make a positive first impression. Now that you’ve established yourself as a consummate professional – even when working from home – focus on continuing to present yourself in the best light possible. Preparation is key. Know the facts about what you are discussing and what sets you or your business apart. What story do you want to tell? Reassure clients through your behavior and conversation that even in these turbulent times, you have not lost focus and are still committed to your mission and vision. Be authentic and genuine in your approach to build trust and credibility.

And, one last point, you can still wear your yoga pants unless you are making a full-scale presentation.

Times are changing, and you must learn how to change with them. If you’re struggling to keep up and your personal brand has become fuzzy (or lost altogether), don’t dismay. There is still time to turn things around and get back on track. YGL Enterprises has a wealth of experience assisting professionals in building (or re-building) their brand and determining how they want to be seen. Pandemic or not, who you are and the message you convey matters. Contact us today to develop a clear strategy for the future.