Small Business and Startups: Customer Service Marketing Manifesto Mike | November 3rd, 2014

I’ve written and spoken often about how customer service for us is a marketing tactic and how we view our customer service as a part of our marketing department. It’s simple – great customer service begets great customer satisfaction which begets great word of mouth. But there’s is another layer to this strategy that is important to understand and, as a small company, it is important that we articulate our approach and live by it. Customer service does not have to be a reactive part of our marketing strategy. Of course our agents can, and should, be ready to respond to a customer call or email (and do it quick!), but they must also proactively reach out to our customers, engage them on a human level, build relationships that can lead to a higher customer lifetime value (CLV), reduce our refund rate, mitigate our fraud risks, AND create happier, more loyal customers who, in turn, will indeed help to spread that good word about our service!

There are multiple moving parts to executing on this strategy and it has to start with our people. We need to be smart and behave smarter; we need to be articulate and have the ability to communicate clearly in both our written and oral conversations; we must be empathetic and always keep the customer’s experience at the highest, most satisfying level; but mostly we must be Human. After all, human beings are inclined to respond well to others of the same species. We have to relate to each other, we have to seek each other out, we have to want to connect with others. It is these factors that will make our customers (past, present, and future) wonderful assets that we can benefit mightily from, both in profits as well as in action.

When I speak of ‘moving parts,’ I am referring to the multiple, often complex pieces to this strategy. It’s not easy to build a culture of support and it’s even harder to make that culture an important element of our marketing strategy. Today, I am outlining the 5 essential pieces we will focus on to continue building on our strengths: the people we have; the training we give them; the tools and resources we provide; the rewards and incentives we create for them;  and the helping culture we are building!

1. Our people. It has to start from day zero; how we describe the positions we need filled is critically important. Our descriptions must be detailed, descriptive and fun. We must be very specific that we do not want boilerplate resumes and cover letters, nor are we looking for boilerplate applicants. We must look for creative individuals, from varied backgrounds, but mostly they have to tell us through their application why they are a good fit for a creative, relaxed, hard-working team. When the emails start rolling in, we must ignore the hacks and the job-link-click-copy-and-pasters and focus on those who show us their ability to communicate, their unique personalities, and their creative approach to solving a problem (i.e. applying to crowdSPRING in such a way that they’ll get our attention). Once we sort through the chaff to get to the wheat, we interview with the goal of finding articulate, strong communicators, who care, truly care, about the customers they’ll be helping and the team they’ll be joining, no matter the position they’re applying for, whether it is technology, marketing, or support. It’s called empathy and we will only hire those who display it. In buckets.

2. Their training. We will commit to supporting our team with ongoing training, education, and fun. We’ll be transparent in how we share information and we will actively communicate how important they are to our company, our team, and our customers. Our people can not be expected to read our minds, nor can they be expected to learn new tools and processes overnight, however our expectations of their ability to learn and grow will be high. We will collaborate with our team; they will be self guided through much of their development, but management will support them through the process. We can never expect our people to swim before they can float, and we will always make sure that the floating and swimming lessons are available, well thought out, and comprehensive. This should not mean that we won’t encourage them to jump into the deep end, either – our culture will encourage risk and and our people will be rewarded for taking it.

3. The tools. We will invest in the tools that our team needs to do their jobs and we will listen actively when they make suggestions on tools they prefer. If we were a messenger company, we would be sure our delivery-folk have the best bicycles, scooter, or cars they need. As a technology company, we will always use the right software for the job and take the time to compare and choose the most appropriate.

4. The rewardsOur culture will reflect our desire to reward people for the hard work they perform, their productivity, and their success at meeting the goals we mutually develop. People need to feel ownership in their job and one way to do it is by carefully and thoughtfully implementing meaningful incentives. We will incentivize not only with cash inducements and bonuses (those work nicely, too!) but through non-cash awards, including fair pay, good benefits, a fun atmosphere, and ongoing praise, both in public and in private. The rewards of working for crowdSPRING must also extend to policies like un-capped vacation, flexible work hours and locations, support for remote working, and a comfortable and inviting workplace.

5. The culture. The company culture is designed to support our customers, ensure them an extraordinary customer experience, and foster loyalty. Our customer service and marketing will be designed around those goals and our workplace and policies will  promote practices to achieve them. Everything our team does, from developing code to answering calls, is a marketing function and we are all marketers. Customer, customer, customer is our mantra and our culture must be relentless in it’s focus on experience, engagement, and empathy.

Illustration, Wikipedia: The cover of the second (and last) edition of BLAST, an artist’s manifesto.

Twitter Link Roundup #241 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Mike | October 31st, 2014

People. Are you ready? It’s time for another weekly roundup of the articles, videos, posts and quips that we shared with you over the past week on our very own crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and various random stuff! Enjoy!

Be sure to watch the video above; great leadership is about so many things, but nothing that happened this week serves as a better example of the impact a great leader can have on their own company and the world around us. Here’s to Tim!

smallbusinessblog

How The “Big Five” Personality Traits Can Create A More Effective team | Buffer Blog – crowdspring.co/ZEPPEI

Management Clichés That Work | Learning by Shipping – crowdspring.co/1zBKkqV

How to Do PR on a Budget – crowdspring.co/1xxDIEO

If Teams Are So Great, Why Do We Have So Much Trouble With Them | by @stoweboyd -crowdspring.co/1wyqnfX

The Ups and Downs of Crowd-Based Resources | WSJ – crowdspring.co/1thNkCS

startupsblog

6 Efficient Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder | Vandelay Design – crowdspring.co/1tA4DCA

My Last Day At PivotDesk | Kelly Taylor’s Blog -crowdspring.co/1sZar6P

A Guide To Co-Leadership: Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Good, And How To Make It Work | TechCrunch -crowdspring.co/1DmUr1f

Number One Leadership Skill | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1CKROUS

6 Lessons Marc Andreessen Gives the Startups He Invests In | Inc – crowdspring.co/1sP6XCb

Good data on US companies started each year & angle/VC investment in startups – crowdspring.co/1tL13FR

Why It’s Better To Sell A Startup For $20 Million Instead Of $200 Million | Business Insider -crowdspring.co/1sUesI3

What makes HubSpot…well, HubSpot? The company’s latest alum tells all | BetaBoston -crowdspring.co/1xeM3wT

The Midwest Is On Track For Its Strongest Year In Startup Investing As “The Rest” Rises -crowdspring.co/1roVSox

The Silent Benefits of PR – crowdspring.co/1xxDIEL

What’s the Best Way to Tap the Crowd to Commercialize Your Invention? – crowdspring.co/1zNPlwR

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: 
ravitejabhukya Audree | October 29th, 2014

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for ravitejabhukya. Check out more great work on ravitejabhukya’s profile page.

Nicely done, ravitejabhukya, nicely done!

FFS-ravitejabhukya

Be of Good Cheer – Social Media for the Holidays! Mike | October 27th, 2014

The holidays are (huh?) fast upon us and it is time to think through your company’s approach to the season. I’m not just talking about office parties, decorations, and vacation time. I mean strategy, marketing, and tactics. And the most obvious of these tactics? Social Media!

That’s right, friends. There is no better opportunity to connect with your customers, entertain your followers, and create some buzz than there is in focusing your efforts ’round the old yule log. There is a reason that marketers start to salivate at holiday time, and it goes beyond the concept of Black Friday and 70% of earnings that many retailers see over the next 60 or so day.

The reason is customers are highly persuadable at this time of year and tend to be more receptive to your messaging as well as your generosity. It is no coincidence that advertising volume increases dramatically at this time of year – see those big cheery smiles on the faces of your local TV ad-traffic departments and magazine ad-sale folks? People (some of them your customers) are more willing to open their wallets, for everything from charitable donations to generous gifts to lavish purchases strictly for their own enjoyment. How can your social media strategy help you to better serve your existing customers, connect with new customers, and improve your bottom line? Here are 5 thoughts that you should bear in mind as you start your own brainstorming process:

1. Reach out! So many practitioners tend to forget this simple rule, but social media is not a soapbox, not a place for speeches, but rather (as we’ve been told countless times) a place for conversations. And the holidays provide a perfect time to chat it up with your followers, old and new. Talk to your customers and ask them what it is they’re doing for the holidays, what’s their happiest tradition, or even whether they’ve been naughty and/or nice. Engage your customers in social media and as the bonds grow, so too will the loyalty they feel towards you and your brand.

2. Be charitable. Just about every entrepreneur I know would give the coat off their back if someone was in need. This time of year is the perfect time to use your social voice to amplify all of the good that businesses and individuals can do. Coat drives are wonderful and the people helped say thanks every day of the polar vortex, but there are many other ways to give besides cleaning out your closet and getting rid of that old shmata you never wear anyhow. Talk to your team – see if anyone is participating in a charitable effort that needs support or is volunteering for an organization that deserves help. Then get onto your SM channels and bast it out to the world. Don’t just brag about the good things your company has done, but encourage others to do the needful, too.

3. Share the cheer. Social media best practices highly encourage sharing and tell stories and holiday time is the perfect time to do just that. It is the perfect opportunity and the best time of year to directly involve your customers and encourage sharing. How? Share with them and ask them to share with you, of course! What? How about asking them to upload photos of their own holiday decorations or post their own wish-lists for gifts they’d like to receive or share stories of their own charitable giving or volunteer experiences. People want to feel connected and this is why they use social media in the first place; a better time of year for connecting just does not exist.

4. Play up your company’s culture. Your brand is everything and your company culture helps to define it and social media helps to promote it. Your posts shoud always reflect your company’s voice and show off your company’s culture, especially at holiday time. Post those funny photos of the team outing, share the details of your holiday party, and let those horrific Christmas sweaters shine through at any opportunity. Take photos, share videos, and document for the world to see!

5. Be strategic. The message counts (especially at this time of year) as does the medium. Choose your tools and tactics with care and consider your audience; at holiday time, people tend to be a bit looser and have a little more free time on their hands, so let your posts ring lighter, your videos be a little sillier, and your sharing be a little more relaxed. As with all marketing efforts, let your goals drive your strategic approach, but make sure that your social media sharing reflects the festive time of year and that your engagement is about connecting and not just selling.

Illustration: Wikimedia, Christmas before digital

Twitter Link Roundup #240 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Mike | October 24th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, we post links to posts or videos we enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that we’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above is an object lesson in how, sometimes, what looks like a dumb idea can actually work out pretty well… enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

10 Best Practices For Email Marketing For Small Business and Startups – crowdspring.co/1t8KeUm

Small Business and Startups: Number One Leadership Skill – crowdspring.co/1CKROUS

Even the Hummus Maker in Palo Alto Has an E-Commerce Startup – crowdspring.co/1sfrdsP

startupsblog

Design Is Changing How We Innovate | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1sChJN5

How to Ruin Your Company with One Bad Process | by @bhorowitz – crowdspring.co/11FYS9R

Benchmarking SaaS Startup Efficiency with Revenue per Employee Metrics | by @ttunguz – crowdspring.co/1sRVdjm

Why You Should Find Product-Market Fit Before Sniffing Around For Venture Money | Co.Labs – crowdspring.co/1sRVsv5

What is the Right Burn Rate at a Startup Company? | by @msuster – crowdspring.co/1qKWc0z

Why Google’s Reported CPC Declines Can’t Tell The Story Of “A Mobile Advertising Problem” – crowdspring.co/1wkmIU1

Candid & raw. All young entrepreneurs should read … My Last Day At PivotDesk | Kelly Taylor’s Blog – crowdspring.co/1sZar6P

C’mon Illinois … Interactive Map: Where The Venture Capital Dollars Are Going | WSJ – crowdspring.co/1wpmKKa

A Guide To Co-Leadership: Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Good, And How To Make It Work | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1DmUr1f

How The “Big Five” Personality Traits Can Create A More Effective team | Buffer Blog – crowdspring.co/ZEPPEI

Good data on US companies started each year & angle/VC investment in startups – crowdspring.co/1tL13FR

6 Lessons Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) Gives the Startups He Invests In | Inc – crowdspring.co/1sP6XCb

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: bokomoslav Audree | October 22nd, 2014

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for bokomoslav. Check out more great work on bokomoslav’s profile page.

Nicely done, bokomoslav, nicely done!

 

FFS-bokomoslav

10 Best Practices For Email Marketing For Small Business and Startups Ross | October 21st, 2014

marketing-emails

Marketers are seeing an alarming trend. Although 122 billion emails are sent every hour, a large and growing percentage of emails are never read. This is not surprising – most marketing emails are simply pure spam without any creative or substantive value. Even worse, really bad marketing emails can easily destroy a company’s reputation and annoy even the most loyal customers.

How can you get your customers and prospects to open your email? What can you do to help ensure that your email campaigns don’t anger loyal customers?

We’ve previously written about Email Design Best Practices for Small Businesses and Startups and Small Business Marketing: Best Times and Days To Send Email For Opens and Click-Throughs.

We have another resource to share with you. MadisonLogic  created the following useful infographic, highlighting 10 email marketing best practices. How many of these best practices are you using today?

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Startups: Number One Leadership Skill Mike | October 20th, 2014

“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Let’s see. Strength? Nah. Productivity? Nope. Ability to instill fear? No way. The number one skill any great leader needs is the ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and quickly. Great leaders do display strength and determination, that’s for sure; great leaders do lead by example and can get piles of work done in the time it takes to write this paragraph; great leaders can also be intimidating, no doubt (if in doubt about any of these characteristics read up on General Patton).

But, to my thinking the one leadership skill that rises above all others is the two-sided ability: to convey information clearly, quickly, and regularly to your team, your investors, your customers and to be able to simultaneously listen closely to what the other has to say and to discern their intent and understand their message. In other words, if you can’t string together an effective sentence, written or oral, and if you are unable to be attentive and hear what is being communicated in return, you are probably not cut out to take the lead.

Here are a few ways that strong communication will make you a better leader:

Motivate In order to deliver the highest quality work product and operate at a high level of productivity and efficiency, our team needs to feel motivated. How you communicate to them as well as how you listen to them can significantly impact their attitude towards their job, their team members, and your company.

Inspire It is your job to inspire people to greater things; how you communicate can have a remarkable effect on their overall attitude towards the company and your customers. People need to feel that they are art of something, that they are contributing to a greater whole and your communication abilities can kindle creativity, inventiveness, and ingenuity.

Debate The strongest leaders have the ability to persuade others to their way of thinking; they can frame an argument, express their viewpoint, and demonstrate the strength of their position. Debate does not always have to be a formal event; even lunch table conversations between you and your team can be lively and fun bonding experiences for all.

Listen Great communication ability must also come with an equal ability to listen and learn from what the other person is saying; without the capacity to attend to what others say to you, you will miss the opportunity to lead. Listening builds strong relationships, and models the most effective way to connect, whether with other members of the team or customers and clients.

Teach Strong communication skills can help people to learn from you and from each other. Each person you communicate with wants to achieve something, personally or professionally, and your ability to communicate well can help them accomplish those goals. Be a teacher, be a leader.

Photo, Wikipedia: Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Twitter Link Roundup #239 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Mike | October 17th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, we post links to posts or videos we enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that we’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above is a from a very special luncheon. A group of second graders was treated to lunch at one of New York’s finest restaurants, Daniel. Have fun watching Jeffrey Blitz’s video for The New York Times

smallbusinessblog

Helpful Tips to Improve Your Checkout Conversions | Designmodo – crowdspring.co/1sajjUZ

Today in Small Business: Hiring Picks Up | by @genemarkscrowdspring.co/1w5hoSn

Small Business and Startups: Best Boss Ever? | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1o6IY2w

30 small business themes for WordPress | Webdesigner Depot – crowdspring.co/1nky3Sr

12 Ways to Quickly Acquire Your First 1,000 Users | Techli – crowdspring.co/1w8fRLp

Alternatives to paid health care benefits, and GE’s public cloud plans – Today in Small Business -crowdspring.co/1pd4XzQ (via @genemarks)

Why You Should Adopt Google’s Nested Approach To Office Layouts | Forbes – crowdspring.co/1z7TSd8

startupsblog

Your 5 Procrastination Excuses, Debunked | Fast Company | Business + Innovation crowdspring.co/1qnKxEK

How To Be Efficient: Dan Ariely’s 6 New Secrets To Managing Your Time – crowdspring.co/1z4kz2e

A Deep Dive Into Today’s Advertising Landscape crowdspring.co/1z7nHKJ

30 Founders Share Why Their Startups Failed | Tech Cocktail – crowdspring.co/1ssh53n

The Four Key Trends of the Startup Acquisition Market | by @ttunguzcrowdspring.co/1w8sgz2

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Entrepreneurial Needs | by @DanMartellcrowdspring.co/1nmowtZ

Always Wrong, Never In Doubt: A 7 Step Framework For Starting a Company | by @DanMartell -crowdspring.co/1sTawss

Entrepreneurs Who Cash Out Look for Meaningful Second Acts | NYT – crowdspring.co/ZZsRch

Good & valuable insight … Postmortem of a Venture-backed Startup – crowdspring.co/1qTm4pU

Why Startups Fail, According to Their Founders – crowdspring.co/1CdmkGz

50 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs – crowdspring.co/1qTiEna

You Should Run Your Startup Like a Cult. Here’s How | WIRED – crowdspring.co/1yXDg7L

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: anci Audree | October 15th, 2014

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for anci. Check out more great work on anci’s profile page.

Nicely done, anci, nicely done!

 

Anci-for-FFS