Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Head Scratching Marketing - Emails That Confuse

From time to time I get email marketing campaigns that just make me scratch my head and say, "Are you kidding?".  Over the last month or so I have received a couple of these that I felt might be worthy of sharing.

To me marketing is to get a person's attention so that you can build a "relationship" with them and ultimately get them to buy something from you.  Getting their attention could mean providing them some value without asking for anything in return.  It is about being remembered.  So that when they have need for your product or service, you are the first person/company they think of.  That is called building a brand.

I subscribe to a newsletter of DIY wellness, cleaning, and recipe type blogs.  This woman is pretty well known in this space and actually has a cute, catchy moniker as well.  She has a fairly large following.  I won't share that moniker here because I really wish her no ill will.  I just found her most recent tactics very confusing.  She has a Facebook page with over 63000 likes.  She clearly has a brand.

10/26 I received this email:

"Hey you :)

It's Monday here in (insert city) and you crossed my mind as I was getting up this AM. (this is
 's email right?)

If you need a quick confidence boost today to take on the week, you should give (video hyperlink here) a quick look (basically perfect for you).


Keep it REAL,"

A couple of things to point you.

1.  I don't know this person, so I couldn't have crossed her mind
2.  See the highlighted text where she was clearly supposed to "mail merge" my name in there

Then on 10/29 I got this email:

"Hey you :)

Your name popped into my head as I was taking a walk this morning. (this is 
Lori's email right?)

If you are truly serious about keeping yourself healthy this season, you should give (link to a blog post here) a quick look (basically perfect for you).

  1. Remember, I have never met this person.
  2. She got the "mail merge" right this time.  But it is clearly a mail merge - the text is even in a different color.
11/10 email:

"Do I KNOW you? I mean you read my blog and this newsletter...but do we KNOW each other? Here is a story of one dedicated reader who I truly have gotten to know. Her story of transformation is right (insert link to blog page) 

I know you need (insert link to recipe)  to go with this story.


  1. Confusion - I know you, you crossed my mind while I was walking but do I really know you?
  2. The two sections of this email had nothing to do with each other.  A success story and a recipe.  Creates more confusion.  Each element by itself provided some value but put together was confusing.

Then today 11/17 I received the following:

"I don't think we've met (have we?) If you are like - 'I totally know you' then can you do me a favor?

Can you either 
(insert link to survey monkey) to tell me about your situation (and introduce yourself!)

...or click the little link below to unsubscribe from my list if you found this by mistake...

Go ahead and pick one now. If you chose to do neither, I'll go ahead and unsubscribe you manually.

(I know you're busy and I don't want to send you occasional emails if you're not interested!)


(Insert Writers Name Here)

PS - Text me if we did actually meet and I'm just having some brain fog (Insert Writers Phone # Here)"

So is anyone else confused?  Let's face it marketing is emotional.  These four emails took me on an emotional roller coaster.  Here are thought processes that went through my head.

  1. I chuckled at the first email.  It was very clear that she was trying to relate to her readers and make a personal connection.  For me, that failed.  It was very easy to see through.
  2. When I received the second email only a few days later, I thought actually was a little annoyed.    I wondered who she thought she was fooling. Again, she was trying to make a personal connection.   But I liked her content so I thought I would stay subscribed to her emails.
  3. There was some value in the third email.  But honestly, I only went back and read this after I got email number 4.
  4. Then I received today's email.  Seriously?  What the heck.  I am so confused by what she is trying to do.  She will unsubscribe me if I don't fill out her form?  

Here are a few points:

  1. She does have products and things she is selling through her posts.  Why would she unsubscribe someone that has been a faithful reader for a long time?
  2. She clearly has no control of her database of prospects (more on that later in a post about the value and importance of data in CRM).
  3. The tone of her email is meant to be lighthearted and helpful, but there is a subtle threat.  Fill out my form or I will unsubscribe you.
  4. The language used here, like totally offends my old fashioned ears.  If her target market is middle school and high school girls, go for it.  Otherwise, that sort of thing can turn a reader off quickly.
I am not writing this to throw this woman under the bus.  She is clearly successful in many areas.  Writing email campaigns is tricky and poorly written campaigns can easily turn people away from you and your brand.  Here are a couple tips.
  1. Always add value!  Share something of value in every email, a photo, an article, a study.  Something - please!
  2. Always have a catchy subject line.  Her second email was "What I am Doing Tomorrow"  You have all heard of the "who cares" test.  If you ask who cares about your subject line and the answer is nobody.  Your email most likely won't be read.
  3. Always have a call to action.  I would not suggest your call to action be either subscribe or unsubscribe. Post a link to your website, or contact information at a very minimum.
  4. Have one main point for each email.  Keep focused on the main point and don't try to add value by going off in some other direction.
  5. Use language that speaks to your target market.  Of course you first have to understand your target market but that is another subject!  
  6. Be personal.  Personalize the email, but PLEASE be sure the personalization works before you send it to 63k readers.
  7. Be warm, be engaging, care.  You really do want your readers to like you.  Remember people buy from people they like.  Read more about that here.
There are many great articles out there about email marketing with many more tips and tricks.  Read them before you send out emails that chase away your customers and/or prospects.

So what do you think I did with her last email?

Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her prospects and clients.  She is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events and trade shows.  If you would like to learn more email her at lori@totaldisplays.com

Monday, November 2, 2015

Your Business Doesn't Matter or Shutting Down a Trade Show Booth Early

Retail sales rep and booth staff at trade shows and events have a lot in common.  But wait, you say, we don't sell anything while we are in our booth.  Really?  You don't sell anything?  Why are you at trade shows if you are not reaching out to customers and/or prospects?

One of the big no no's in the trade show world is to shut down your booth or to pack it up early.  I know, I know.  You have been on your feet for days, you are tired, you are hung over from yesterday (we'll address that in another post) you have a flight to catch.  I have heard it all.  The reality is, your biggest prospect may be coming through late.  You just don't know do you?  Can you afford to take the risk?

Yesterday, I was in a smaller town in MN that has some high-end shopping.  There is a cute little store that I have always loved.  Some beads and charms, cute knit items, jewelry, cards and more.  I have always enjoyed this store.  As we walked in, it appeared that they were getting ready to close. I asked, "Oh are we too late?".  The clerk replied, "Oh no, we don't close for 15 minutes".  

I proceeded to browse through the store.  Each corner where I went to look at products I had to avoid the clerk that was shutting off all the lights and unplugging things.  I am not exaggerating when I say, every time I was looking at something, I had to move out of her way so she could turn things off.  It was Halloween.  I am sure she had a party to go to.  Clearly she had better things to do than to let me and my family look at things and/or purchase something.  Every time I have been in that store over the years, I have purchased something.  Not this time.  I left before the store even officially closed, but clearly she was done serving clients.

In addition to our business, Total Displays, I have a small home based business that I do some exhibiting at small local shows.  So many people pack up and shut down early.  More than once, I have had someone come by the booth at the very end of the show that ended up buying products.

Here is the reality. When you are in your booth or your retail store, you are a sales person.  It doesn't matter if you are paid commission or not.  It doesn't matter if that is what your title says.  You represent the company, you represent the brand.  You need to be professional, always be ready to service a client or a potential client.  If you can't do these things, you should not be in a booth or in the store.  Period.  Honestly, you probably shouldn't have a job with that company.  If your livelihood depended on you making that connection, or making that sale, maybe you would behave differently?

So how does a company avoid having the wrong people in a store or in a booth.  Training!  Train your staff.  Make sure they know what the expectations are for them while they are staffing a booth.  Even if you have trained before, do it again.  Bad habits creep in very quickly.   There are many companies that offer simple booth training classes and workshops.  Total Displays does.

As a company, you spend a lot of money on trade shows.  If you are in retail, you spend a lot of money on a storefront.  What kind of staff do you have working to be sure you get ROI and make money?

Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 25 years (yes she is that old).  Lori's background includes training customers on a national basis on CRM, sales, and marketing best practices.  With Total Displays she has developed a number of training courses related to events and CRM usage.  Visit us at www.totaldisplays.com or email her at lori@totaldisplays.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

People Buy From People They Like

How many of you can honestly say you like sales people?  Sales people have a reputation for being pushy, aggressive and obnoxious.  You hear the term, 'Used Car Salesperson' and you immediately have a negative impression.

If you were to take those traits and flip them around to more positive traits and labels you have a very different picture.  Let's take one of those traits and turn it around!

Pushy vs. Persistent

The word pushy brings images of a sales rep that won't stop talking.   They don't listen and they throw up on you about all the great things they are going to do for you, right?  We have all experienced those reps.  How many of you have seen Glengarry Glen Ross?  It is arguably THE iconic movie about sales.

ABC = Always Be Closing.  Watch the full speech here.   Please excuse the language.  If you are easily offended by foul language - don't watch!

How many of you actually like being hard sold?  I know I don't and I am in sales.

Let's compare that with persistent.  A persistent sales person finds a reason to keep in touch and provides value in those touches.  Here are some goals of a persistent sales rep.

  • Build rapport
  • Build a relationship  
  • Make it personal 
  • Don't just go to the hard sale with questions like, "What do you need right now?".
  • Gently lead - don't push
  • Listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time 
  • Don't throw up on them with all your products and services and perceived value
  • If you say you are going to follow up or do something - DO IT!
  • Keep notes in CRM so that you can refer back to those notes in your next conversation*
    • Those notes should include personal information you glean during conversations.

Utilizing some of these tips keeps you front and center in the person's mind so that when a need arises they will reach out to you!

For a long time I thought every organization needed the "hunter" mentality.  Take no prisoners, tag 'em and bag 'em mentality.  You all know those reps.  They never stop selling. They never stop looking for prospects.

The trade show business is very service driven.  At Total Displays we believe in more of a "fisher" mentality.  Many of our clients have been clients for over 20 years.  Cast out, reel them in.  Repeat.  Do you get a bite on the first cast?  Ocassionally.  Most likely it will take multiple casts and you better have bait on your line.  You will also hear this referred to as Hunter vs. Farmer.  The Farmer type of sales rep, plants seeds and grows relationships and businesses.  Same concept!

As I have matured in my sales knowledge and abilities my opinion of that has changed.  In this day of technology people are craving high-touch, high-service sales model.  Watch for another post on this in the future.


There is a company that we have had a very bad experience with in the past.  They hired a new sales rep.  We will call him "Bob".  He was very persistent.  He called and called and called.  We put him off and put him off and put him off.  One day he showed up at our door.  He wasn't pushy, he just said that he knew we were very busy and that he was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop and introduce himself.  (More on that concept in a later post).  We chatted for a long time about a lot of different things.

  • He made it personal and began building a relationship.  We talked about our daughter and her softball team.
  • He provided value by leaving us a "tool"
  • He didn't push
  • He listened  
  • He followed up.  When he followed up he referenced personal conversations and asked how an out of town softball tournament went.  
  • He built rapport.
  • My guess is he made notes in a CRM system (I will have to remember to ask him).  Either that or the guy has an AMAZING memory.
  • He's a nice guy
  • I liked him

We had a small personal project that we needed turned around very quickly.  I said to David, "We need this quickly let's give Bob a shot at this.  You know what he did?  He did this job for us for free.  I am not saying in any way that you have to give something away to get business.  Simply care about and for your customer.  People read that and understand that.

Our second project?  He price matched an inferior product with a better product.  When the job was done, he delivered it personally.

Are you getting the picture?

Will I give him another opportunity to provide us product or services?  Absolutely.

Recently I received a phone call from a desperate prospect that needed new graphics for a pop up booth that she bought in the UK.  It was not a frame or a system that we were familiar with and not having it here could mean our graphics would not fit.  I went out of my way to find her a supplier and contact in the UK that could help her out.  Did I get anything out of it?  No.  But I know when she is ready to purchase here in the US again that she will give me a chance at the business.  I provided value.  I also followed up to be sure she got her job done.

*See my post on Can CRM Help You Retain Customers

Stay tuned for the next installment - Customer Service Matters

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I Yell At Phones

Yes, I do, I really do yell at phones.  I am just going to put it out there: I HATE AUTO ATTENDANTS.

Honestly,  I would rather have a phone go to voicemail and leave a message than go into the dreaded directory search black hole or the auto attendant round about.  Personally I believe a real person should answer the phone.  More on that later.

I recently had an experience with Microsoft.  We purchased a $150 annual support plan. I honestly don't even remember what it was called.  When I went to login to use it, it said I didn't have that plan.  I had an email receipt and am getting emails about the great features of the programs.

So... what is a girl to do?  You call Microsoft.  Here is the process.

 5 Auto Attendant Prompts in order to be put on hold for the next representative

  • Spell my name to someone that doesn't speak English.  Have them spell it back to me
  • Explain to them my problem (most of them didn't even know what the plan was that I purchased)
  • Have them put me on hold
  • Have them tell me a phone number to dial for assistance on this issue
  • Have them put me through to that number
  • Wash, rinse, repeat.  
I went through this process 7 times in over 2 hours.  By the time the 7th lady began asking me the questions I said, "You are the 7th person that I have been forwarded to with the same process.  I am not going to give you my name, spell it, have you put me on hold and then put me back to the auto attendant to find someone else to help me.  I will just have American Express cancel my purchase, that you can't find, but charged me for and get my money back."  Yes - I hung up.  Yes American Express refunded our money.  Will I ever buy a product or a service like that from Microsoft again?  No!  

Once when I got an auto attendant for an insurance company I was sent round and round and round.  I just wanted to talk to a person about my bill.  I kept pushing buttons, saying representative and couldn't get through.  I am not proud, but yes, I was yelling at the auto attendant.  There were possibly some inappropriate words used.  Yes, I do realize how ridiculous it is to yell at the phone.

But here is the REALLY funny part.  The voice recognition software forwarded me to their mental health care line.  It is actually pretty genius if it was intentional.  :)

Yes I do realize that it is not feasible for Microsoft to personally answer every call that they receive.  If you must have an auto attendant, have it direct people to the right department and then hire skilled workers and empower them to help the person on the phone!  In my experience, it was clearly, 'I don't know what to do with this woman's problem so I am going to send her back into the queue.'

I have said it before I prefer to do business with small business every day.  We own a small business so of course I would support small business.  Unfortunately it is not always possible.  

When you find a great small business, and there are many, you have the opportunity to get real customer service.  Honestly, customer service is not dead.  Search for it.  Support small business.  Boost the local economy and job force.  When you buy from us, you help us create more jobs in our small business.  You support people, not a company that spends money on more technology to eliminate more skilled workers.  Read - AUTO ATTENDANTS.  

The resolution of my computer problem?  I went to a local business that has real people, a service department you can call or visit and got my computer fixed.  And, I purchased two new computers for the staff we have added to our company this year.  While I was there I met the general manager of the store.  He thanked me for my business.  What a novel concept!


~End Rant

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Small Business Advantage

I believe in small business.  We own a small business.  We eat, sleep, breathe small business.  There are huge benefits to working with a small business.  I want to highlight a couple of recent stories one personal and one in our business.  I will focus on the personal story today.

We bought a couple of ceiling fans for our children's rooms.  They were $50 or so each.  Not a bad investment to help cool upstairs rooms during the summer.  So we went to the internet to find an electrician.  I honestly don't know where my husband found the company but I should have known right away that it was a bad idea.  The company name was Mr. Sparky.   Seriously?  Mr Sparky? But I digress.

We called to schedule the service.  They asked what time of the day we would prefer.  So my husband said, earlier in the day would be better.  He was told there was a $79 service call fee.  They asked if that was ok?  And he said yes.

They arrived quite promptly.  He came in and looked at the project.  He got has paperwork out and started writing up the order.  He asked a couple of questions.  One of those was what kind of switch we wanted on the wall.  We could have a switch on the wall that would control the lights and the fan.  I said we didn't need that we could just control with the chains on the fan. He told me that the chains on fans broke quite easily. I asked if it would add significant cost. His answer was no not significant.  (Great up-sell dude).  I even joked with him because at the top of his pricing sheet it showed items at $1,400 and I said I certainly hoped that it wasn't going to be that high.

Well boy was I wrong.  He told me that the price to install the fans and the switch would be over $1,700.  Ok, maybe I don't have any concept of what this should cost but that seemed incredibly ridiculous to me.  AND to make matters worse, even if I went with this price to get them installed they didn't take the service fee off the total.  You paid that no matter what.  Oh and wait - the service fee was actually over $87 when you added some other $8 fee that we weren't told about.    I told the electrician that it was ridiculous and now I was paying $87 for him to walk in our house, look upstairs and write up some paperwork.

The electrician was polite considering that I was quite annoyed.  But honestly he was a little condescending.  He kept asking, "what did you expect to pay"?  I honestly don't know the answer to that but I didn't expect it to be $1,700.  I told him that we own a business and setting customer expectations was incredibly important to customer service.  He argued with me that they couldn't even give a price range over the phone.  He was actually quite condescending.

To add insult to injury he proceeded to tell me that we "chose" a 2 hour service window.  I asked him what the other options were.  4 hour service window for $59 or so and an 8 hour service window that was $29 or so.  DUH we weren't even given the option for the other two service windows.  Talk about a bait and switch.

I placed a call to another local electrician.  I explained my situation.  He said he had heard many similar comments and complaints about Mr. Sparky.  The national company had actually tried to get him to convert his independent business to a Mr. Sparky service.  We talked through what we had.  He asked some questions and said he could do it for about $400.   The fancy switch that I was paying $300 a piece for from Mr. Sparky?  He said, I could go get a switch at home depot and he would install it for me.

So why do I really tell you about this.  This is a national company.  I know there are good large companies out there.  But my experience is the level of service and communication you get from smaller companies is much higher.   We have had similar experiences with big name horrible experiences with furnaces and air conditioners too.

It takes time to find and keep a customer.  It takes seconds to lose one.

What happens when you lose a customer because of your service?

  • You Lose A Client
  • You Lose Referrals
  • You Lose Repeat Business

Here are the important lessons I think are to be learned from this.

  1. Relationship.  Build a relationship early in the sales cycle.
  2. Set realistic expectations with the prospect.  This will help you avoid frustration and unrealistic expectations.
  3. Don't be pushy on the up-sell.  No one likes a "used car salesperson"  If you were to give them options and explain the options, they will most likely take your recommendations.
  4. Don't be greedy.  Companies that are all about money are spotted quickly and trust is lost.
  5. Earn someone's trust.  Stand behind your product or your service and make it right when someone is unhappy.
  6. Trust and service turns into customer loyalty.
Give small business owners a chance.  Chances are you will get a higher level of service.  Win - win right?  


Lori Hanken
Total Displays

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Essential Oils and Trade Shows

Ok, what in the world do essential oils and trade shows have in common?  I recently made a discovery that I thought I would share.

Many of you know that I am quite passionate about the use of essential oils.  We use them for many things.  Most of those things, the FDA won't let me tell you about because we are not classified as a drug.  Therefore I can't even use any words like allergies, arthritis, asthma or anything else in relation to the oils.  I do love to learn about, try and share information about the oils.  I teach many classes and workshops so that others can learn too.

The first "ah-ha" moment for me is with our showroom.  We have a large showroom in our Trade Show exhibit and event company.  When we moved in we had a cherry picker to hang the large overhead in our showroom.  While hanging the sign the cherry picker leaked oil or transmission fluid on our gray carpet in our 20 x 20.  This is an area where all our prospects come to see our showroom and visit with us.  The stain on the carpet always bothered me.  It was clearly noticeable and honestly embarrassed me when clients and prospects came in.

One day I had a revelation.  I had heard so much about lemon oil being great for cleaning.  We have used orange oil mixture to eliminate pet urine smells and were amazed!  You can read about that here if you want.  All Natural Pet Odor Removal.  So I decided to try some lemon oil.

Seriously I dropped about 12 drops of lemon oil on the stain and got a rag.  I rubbed a little bit and the stain started disappearing.  I was honestly surprised.  So you ask again, what does this have to do with trade shows?

  1. Do you ever find stains on graphics or on your flooring?
  2. Do you try to clean it and it looks worse?
  3. Do you decide to leave it behind and just spend more money on new flooring for the next show?
  4. Do you try to cover it up with furniture or a reception counter?
Be sure to spot test it on things like graphics before you try it.  I have not yet tried it on dye sub graphics.

My hope is that this tip makes you look great and saves you some money.  I would be happy to sell you new flooring, but would feel badly if I didn't share my trick for cleaning this up!  We were going to throw this away and get new carpet when we redo our showroom this summer.  This little bottle saved us a bunch of money!  Essential oils are all natural and contain no harsh chemicals like traditional cleaning products.

Add a little bottle of Young Living Lemon Essential Oil to your trade show kit!  You won't be sorry.  It smells really fresh and wonderful too, like a little bottle of sunshine while we are trapped in convention halls for hours on end.  I always have one in my office if you want to stop by and sample it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A 30 Year Vendor Relationship That Wasn't Worth $1500

We sell trade show exhibits.  This is not a blog trying to get you to do business with us but a little background is necessary.  Total Displays has been in business for over 30 years.  My husband and I have owned the business for 11 years as of this writing.

As a company we look for partners, long term partners.  We are not the kind of company that goes out to partner with just any company to say that we offer absolutely every product out there.   When looking for partners we are looking for companies that have the following attributes:

  1. They sell to re-sellers or distributors only.  I have no need to compete directly with any of my manufacturers.
  2. They understand small business.  This can be a little trial and error.  I talk to people in the industry to find out about their reputation.
  3. I do like to be courted a little bit.  If I have to chase the partner, chances are they are not going to support me very well.
  4. I need to be able to make money.  That seems self evident but when someone wants you to sell their product and you ask them what your margins will be and they can't answer?  Run, run very fast and very far.  I will post more on this issue another day.
Once we have found a partner, we will make every effort to represent their product and their brand well while integrating it into our offerings.  These products are not such hard products but include services.  We also want these relationships to be long term.  We truly partner with companies.  Their success is our success and vice versa.  We don't expect a partner to be perfect, but to make things right when they are not.

Now on to the story.  One of the services we provide is freight and logistics.  Of course we don't have a fleet of trucks so we partner with companies that are experts in this field.   So here is what happened.  We have had a long time relationship with ABC Shipping Company.  They have been a good partner.  We have spent a lot of money (at least by our standards) with them over the years.  We referred three of our largest clients with the most shows.   They set up direct accounts with ABC Shipping Company.  They move a lot of trade show products throughout the year.

They shipped a booth for one of these clients, XYZ Company.  This was a brand new booth.  It had never been set up.  It was shipping directly to the show.  This booth was valued at 65,000.  We get the email from the carrier saying the following:

"Please take a look at how your freight arrived into San Diego our carrier did not handle this  crate very good. I am working with them to see how this happened. David and I thought you would need this information in case you rec’d a call. My agent could not get this crate out of their trailer being it was falling apart and could not be salvaged or repaired. They did a great job at regrouping the freight inside the crate. I will send them in the next email. One of the concerns we have is the transportation back to you. I am thinking we can have our agent skid, band, and bubble wrap for the trip to MN. Please let us know your thoughts. This freight was delivered at 1030 today signed for by Susie Showmaker.  I am very sorry that your freight did not arrive as it was shipped."

They were unwilling to pay to replace the crate.  Luckily the booth was not damaged and went up just fine.  Here is my issue.  I know that their procedures and policies would require us to insure the booth at a cost of an additional $500 per trip for any replacement cost.  Also the terms on the replacement cost were very vague and subject to interpretation.  What became clear is that they were unwilling to stand behind their service.  This may be standard policy for shipping companies.

Where is the principal in the matter, where is the service?  As a result, we have pulled all business, and told our clients that we are no longer recommending ABC Shipping Company.

Personally if it were my business, I would have done the right thing and offered the client SOMETHING.  Half of the value?  Anything would have been better than this.  Remember that key word partnership.

From www.meriam-webster.com

Full Definition of PARTNERSHIP

:  the state of being a partner :  participation
a :  a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated as joint principals in a business
b :  the persons joined together in a partnership
:  a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities
Partnership implies two companies in a relationship working together.  I am sure I will ruffle some feathers with this one.  But sometimes you have to throw away policies and do the right thing by your client.  FYI, we have already paid for the new crate for our client.

What did that $1,500 actually cost them?  A LOT.  

What would you have done?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Can CRM Help You Retain Customers?

CRM, Customer Relationship Management?

When I speak about CRM best practices one of the first questions I ask is, "Do you have customers?"  The follow up question is, "Do you want to keep those customers?"

CRM systems are not just for new sales.  Traditional thought process on CRM is new business, sales funnel, opportunity management, etc.  All throughout your organization you touch your relationship with those clients.  Here are some areas where a customer can be "touched".
  • Customer Service
  • Service & Repair
  • Credit & Collections
Let's say you go to make a sales call to a long time customer.  They have had some difficulties and were slow to pay a couple of invoices.  You call them up to ask for more business and you get slammed because your credit and collection rep has been hounding them for the last two weeks and has completely alienated them.   Another day we will discuss how to turn credit and collections into a customer service and sales tool!

Tracking those customer touches is vitally important to your overall relationship with your client.  Maintaining a strong relationship with the client makes them come back for more!

Customer Relationship Ownership

This is something that is often over looked by Sales Managers or owners of companies.   Often a company's biggest asset is their customer list.  Without that customer list it wouldn't matter how much inventory you had, you would not have any sales and any repeat sales without customers.

If your sales reps are keeping all their sales notes and or conversations on paper, you do not have access to a very valuable part of that customer relationship.  How many times have you heard the stories where a sales rep leaves, takes a copy of the proprietary customer list and all their notes and calls on them from their new company.  We all know how hard it is to truly enforce non-competes right?  As a business owner, you own that customer relationship and all the data that goes with it.

If you want to make the job easier for the next rep for that account, be certain that your reps are utilizing CRM to track their conversations.  There are some great tools and tricks to be sure that happens.  We will cover that in another post too!

Of course the same holds true for sales leads but we are talking about customers today.

Customer Turnover/Churn

Customer retention is incredibly important to any business.   The cost to acquire a new account vs. keeping and nurturing an existing account is significant.  Here is a great article to read on the true cost of acquiring a new customer.

Customer Acquisition Cost

 There is nothing worse for a sales rep to call a customer that hasn't bought from you for a while to find that they are now buying from someone else?  Do you know how many of those customers you have lost?

Or what about the customer where your contact leaves for a new job?  Will you build a relationship with the new person?  Will you know that there is a new person? Will you call on your former contact at his new job to see if they may be a prospect?

A good solid usage of CRM with a defined universal process within your organization can help with these issues.


Lori Allaman Hanken has spent over 25 years working with various CRM packages.  She was part of a development and design team for a nationally released CRM product in the wholesale distribution market.  Ms. Hanken has been featured as a national speaker and has helped many clients create best practices procedures and documentation while consulting on CRM usage.  She has implemented hundreds of CRM installations.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

To Blog Or Not To Blog Is That The Question?

I have been writing business blog posts in my head for about 7 years now.  I must think I have a lot to share?  I should have a lot of content then right?

Writing a blog is really putting yourself out there.  It is exposing yourself, opening yourself up to criticism and much more.  So is it really worth it?

What does blogging do for a company?  Here are some of the things I have gathered through my research and reading.

Competitive Positioning

Part of our company mission is to keep on top of trade show industry trends.  Keeping our clients educated helps make them look the best and get the most out of their trade show experience and money.  Blogs provide an efficient, a relatively easy way to allow your company to be a thought leader in your field and to differentiate you from your competitors.

Establishing Your Business As An Expert

Customers need to know and trust that the company that they choose is an expert in their field.  Blogging can provide you the medium to show your customers your knowledge and add value to them.  

Customer Relations

Repeat business is critical to success.You need to keep in regular touch with your clients and add value in order for them to want to continue to do business with you.  Blogs allow you to do that while not always calling customers to see if they are ready to buy again!     In the trade show business some of your clients only use your products 1 or 2 times a year.  If you are not in regular communication with them and adding value you can lose them!    Interacting with your clients in this type of environment will strengthen those relationships.  Total Displays prides itself on long term relationships with out clients and hope that we are continually providing value to them.  

Search Engine Marketing

Blogs are an effective way to improve your rankings on search engines such as Google and Yahoo!   Of course you can spend money to buy top advertising space.  Google anything and see the ads at the top and in the right hand panel.   My understanding is that the top search engines index sites based on content.  If you have a blog, and you publish frequently you can boost your relevancy and get higher up in the search results.  

Brand Building

Blogs are a great tool to get your brand out there.  Do you know what your value proposition truly is?  Is it price, quality, service?  If you don't know and don't clearly market that in your blog you could be wasting your time.  It is important that while promoting your brand you add value for the reader.

Am I an expert?  No.  Do I have years of experience to share?  Yes.  I am going to take a run at this business blogging thing and see how it goes.

Be gentle dear readers.