Internet Marketing

Come to the Carnival this summer and win 12 free months of PromoterZ™!

Come to the Carnival this summer and win 12 free months of PromoterZ™!

What says summer more than traveling carnivals? Cotton candy, hot dogs, rides that go around and around until you puke! Does life get any better than that? I submit that it cannot!

The blog world has a few traveling carnivals of their own and over the next few months we've been asked to host several. We haven't figured out how to deliver cotton candy online yet, but to make it interesting we're going to include a chance to win--remember the baseball throw, the ring toss, and the shooting gallery? So step right up Ladies and Gentleman! A winner at every carnival!

Here's how it works. Each time we host a carnival (see schedule below) we will choose a visitor to win 12 free months of PromoterZ™ service ($600 value). To participate, click on this link and then come to the carnival. We'll announce the PromoterZ™ winner along with the posts chosen to be in the carnival.

Don't know what a blog carnival is? It's like a traveling roadshow. The host chooses what they consider to be the best posts of the week from the blogs that submit posts and include a few editorial remarks. For the reader it is a great way to see the latest and greatest without having to hit every blog. For bloggers, it is a good way to increase exposure. Here are the Carnivals we've been asked to host:

Carnival of Entrepreneurship July 6th
Carnival of Business July 24th
Carnival of Marketing August 6th and 13th

Don't forget to sign up and submit your posts. Bring your friends and remember it is BYOCF.

You work hard to make sure your customers are happy. Don't waste happy customers. How easy is it for your customers to share with their friends? Learn more

Real Small Business, Real Word-of-Mouth, Real Improvement.

Real Small Business, Real Word-of-Mouth, Real Improvement.

I don’t mean to bite the hand that feeds me, but I’ve noticed that we of the small business/entrepreneur blogging world talk a lot about word-of-mouth and other great business principles, but rarely do we write about actual experiences from small businesses applying the stuff. My goal is to change that with some real case studies of real businesses applying great business principles and enjoying the benefits. Here is my first attempt.

Chuck & Joan Matheny own two Sport Clips locations in greater Phoenix. Sport Clips is a hair cut place that caters to guys. Every stylist chair has a TV tuned to sports, all the décor is sports related, and they have an “MVP” service that includes a hot towel and a neck massage. Their motto is “Guys win.” If you’ve never been comfortable in the fru-fru world of hair salons, this is the place for you.

Anyway, last September Chuck was looking for a way to improve the performance of one of his locations. It had a great staff and a good location but wasn't performing like he hoped it would. Rather than pay for traditional advertising, Chuck decided to focus on encouraging his existing clients to spread the word. Four months later, without spending a dime on advertising, Chuck’s weekly sales were up well over 20% and have continued to grow.

From the client's perspective, Chuck's program starts with a simple invitation received at the conclusion of their service. The invitation is the size of a business card. It includes the stylist's name and offers a free service upgrade in return for visiting a web site to provide feedback. "Our feedback survey is extremely short," says Chuck. "It literally takes our clients less than sixty seconds to complete. Our goal is not to get feedback on every little thing, but to learn if the client is happy with the service and start an ongoing dialogue."

The ongoing dialogue is initiated with the last question of the survey that asks if the client would like to receive additional information and specials from Sport Clips. Nearly 90 percent of those that provide feedback choose to receive additional information. That’s a pretty good “opt-in” rate. Once customers opt-in, Chuck uses technology to stay in touch with them. First-time customers automatically receive reminders via email, including a discount coupon, every three weeks to encourage loyalty. Every customer that signs up receives a birthday greeting from Chuck including a discount on their next hair cut and Chuck regularly sends out email specials associated with holidays or other events.

The Sport Clips client experience is remarkable and worth talking about in and of itself, but Chuck also takes extra steps to encourage his clients to tell others about their experience. Each time a client completes a survey or receives an email from Chuck they are given the opportunity to forward online discount coupons to their friends along with a personal message. Thirty percent of the clients that join Chuck’s program take advantage of the opportunity and send an invitation to their friends.

Chuck's efforts have paid off in many ways. His stylists love the customer feedback and take greater pride in their work. He knows who his most loyal customers are and can contact them without paying for advertising. And, most importantly, his customers are actively telling their friends to try Sport Clips. All of which have lead to healthy growth.

Time, effort, and money required? The invitation cards that Chuck’s stylists hand out are business cards ordered from Vistaprint. They run about 4 cents a piece--four color both sides. Chuck uses PromoterZ for his online survey, opt-in list management, outgoing email and online referral generation needs. Cost: $50 a month. In terms of time required, Chuck spends a few minutes each day responding to customer feedback. Once a week he shares feedback with his managers as part of his manager meeting. He also spends some time each month deciding on a special offer to send out to his loyal customers. This month? Fathers and Sons that come in together get a Free MVP upgrade for Dad and a half price haircut for son.

Do you remember your customers on their birthday? On their anniversary? Do you give special notice to recently acquired customers? Promoterz does. Learn more

Are You Holding Your Bathroom for Ransom?

Are You Holding Your Bathroom for Ransom?

I was on the road over the weekend and found the stupid business idea of the week--no make that century. Driving on the interstate to Flagstaff, Arizona (beautiful place if you have never been there) and needed to stop for a bio break. Sign on the business establishment's front door: "Our Bathrooms are for Paying Customers Only!"

Now I know exactly where that sign came from. An employee, maybe the manager, maybe even the owner got tired of trying to keep the bathroom clean and seeing people walk in and out without buying anything. Simple conclusion and solution: "No more free loaders! The bathroom is a benefit reserved only for those people that buy! Toilet paper doesn't grow on trees! Let's get a sign up, that will save us some money and some time!" So up goes the sign telling potential customers that they are an annoyance and if they want relief, they've got to pay.

I would love to compete with the guy that made that decision. I'd make my bathrooms glisten and smell of sweet things. I'd hire a teenager to stand outside the bathroom door and hand road-weary travelers a warm towelette to refresh themselves. I'd invest in some big signs on the interstate that say "Come use our sweet smelling bathrooms--absolutely free!" Then I'd sit back and watch my suppliers try to keep up with the demand.

Would some travelers come and go without buying anything? Sure, but I would smile and thank them for using my bathroom. Why? Because I know there is no way they are going to be able to keep my remarkable bathroom a secret. When a person asks how their trip went, they are going to say, "It was long, but we found the greatest place to stop. They actually give you a warm towlette and then they thanked us for using their bathroom--and we didn't even buy anything!" And when it is time to make the return trip, where do you think they are going to stop? At my remarkable sweet-smelling bathroom and chances are this time they are going to buy a tank of gas, a bag of jerky, and a 32 oz soda!

Here is the point, whether your business is on the interstate, the internet or any location in between, the name of the game is traffic. The more people that walk through your door, the more you are going to sell. The best way to build traffic is not to hold free services for ransom. Have you ever seen anyone happy after paying a ransom--even if they get what was promised? No! More likely they feel violated and manipulated. So don't do it! Be the good guy and make more money at the same time. If you've got something free and remarkable you can offer, don't hold it ransom, get it out in front and use it to get more customers to walk through your door then make sure they have a remarkable experience. Soon your sweet-smelling bathroom will be world famous...

Do you remember your customers on their birthday? On their anniversary? Do you give special notice to recently acquired customers? Promoterz does. Learn more

I'm Sorry, This Movie is Late. That will be $400 Million Please!

I'm Sorry, This Movie is Late. That will be $400 Million Please!

In the old movie rental days I always knew my family was paying a lot in late fees. Apparently, we weren't alone. Netflix, highlighted in Businessweek as number 29 on their Hot Growth list, changed all of that. Here's another great story about an innovative company not only competing with the big boys, but completely changing the rules.

How well is it working? Last year Netflix's profits doubled to $41 million while Blockbuster and Movie Gallery lost a combined $1 Billion! Now get this, $400 million of that billion was due to late fees that Blockbuster had to give up in order to compete with Netflix. Netflix is getting close to 5 million customers and is expected to do nearly a billion in revenue this year. Not bad for a company that many thought would never succeed because we all want "instant gratification" when we rent movies. Apparently, some of us are willing to plan ahead a little.

Perhaps even more important than dropping late fees, Netflix competes by understanding its customers and their tastes and building customer loyalty. Seventy percent of Blockbuster's rentals are new releases. For Netflix the number is only 30 percent. Instead of pushing whatever Hollywood's latest offering is, Netflix actively looks for films that it's customers want (what a concept). The average user on Netflix rates over 200 films (talk about customer feedback). Combine that with rental history and Netflix can predict pretty well what will rent and what won't. This information allows it to actively pursue films from independents that others won't take a chance on.

Of course the future of movie rental is sure to change. While there is plenty of debate on the timing, it is almost certain that web distribution of movies will grow. Netflix plans to be there and will bring along its 5 million loyal customers...

Find your happy customers and put a megaphone in their hand. Learn more

Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!

Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!

One of our posts from last week got some recognition and we couldn't resist tooting our horn a little.

Innovation 101, an entry posted on May 22nd was selected from multiple small business and entrepreneurship blogs to be included in the Carnival of Entrepreneurship hosted by Pam Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation. Pam selected seven posts from all those submitted. Of our post she said, "The lead picture is worth the visit!" Check out the lead picture and rest of the post here here.

In addition, the same post was selected as the "The Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!™". This is from a blog called Political Calculations that does a review of the 10 business blog carnivals each week. Here is what they had to say:

"Dave Free shows off the process of innovation in a home drywalling project he took on with his son. The engineer, economist and entrepreneur in me all agree that this is, hands down, The Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!"

Like I said--tooting our horn just a little. You can visit the Political Calculations blog here.

Customers who feel that you are listening to them are more likely to recommend you to a friend. How do your customers know that you are listening? Learn more
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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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