The proof is in the numbers: Demandforce can help your business grow

According to a financial statement analysis done by Sageworks, a financial information company, businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue experienced, on average, a 7.8 percent annual sales growth in 2015. This follows the trend of continued growth in annual small business sales that we’ve seen since the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

If you’re a small business owner, prospects could be looking bright for you, but you still always need to work towards increasing your customer count, visits per day, and revenue per day, to continue to grow. Even if you have a loyal fan base, if you don’t have the numbers, you might run into cash flow problems. According to a U.S. Bank study, 82 percent of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems.

So how can you be proactive about growing your business? By investing wisely in three aspects:

  1. Your product or service
  2. Your team
  3. Your marketing and communications

Your product or service

This is the most obvious aspect of your business that you need to quality control and provide. If you don’t offer a service or product that is in demand, and that is of a high caliber, than you’ll have trouble attracting new business and growing.

Your team

The foundation of any great business starts with the people who work there. This goes for startups to large corporations. The dedication and passion your team members put into their work pays off in the quality of service your business provides. You and your team directly impact how well your business does, and so investing in yourself and your team is never a bad idea.

Your marketing and communications

You may be the greatest dentist, doctor, veterinarian, or mechanic in your town, but if you no one knows that, then your business won’t get off the ground, let alone grow. While traditional forms of marketing like word-of-mouth referrals and local advertisements are still valuable, investing in marketing and communications that reach a wider group of prospects is essential if you want your business to continue to grow. That’s why the best way to increase customer count, visits, and revenue per day is to invest in improving and optimizing your marketing and communications.

Take these stats: auto shops that sign up for Demandforce, a marketing and communications platform that provides tools and solutions to help small businesses (such as auto shops and more) grow, saw an immediate effect in all three of these areas.

Within just 6 months, the average customer count at auto shops using Demandforce increased by 4.89%. Average visits per day went up by 11% after just six months, and average revenue per day increased by 4.57%.

And the numbers continue to rise after a year of using the platform.

After a year, the average customer count at an auto shop using the platform increased from its original number by 12.48%, and average visits per day had increased by 13.21% in a year.

(Based off a survey of select Demandforce auto shop partners, 2017)

With just a bit of help, your business could start seeing immediate increases in these three key areas, which are all good indications of your business’ health. And one of the benefits of using an online platform designed for small businesses is that it’s easy to use. Setting up and sending out a custom email to inactive customers, for example, can be done in just a few minutes, by following the helpful walkthrough and using a ready-made email template. Demandforce specifically integrates with popular content management systems to sync appointment and customer data, so that you can set up helpful automated workflows, such as advanced appointment reminders and two-way text, completely contained within the online platform.

If you’re looking for immediate results, Demandforce can help. The platform offers a live demo and occasional special introductory offers. To find out more or to schedule a demo, you can either call (888) 272-7821 or visit demandforce.com and click the “See a demo” button.

Customer service advice for small businesses

If you’re a small business such as a dentist, medical specialist, auto shop, hairstylist, or veterinarian, you know how important each customer is to your bottom line. You can’t afford to lose a customer or patient due to a bad experience, and many of your customers might come to you specifically because they want the “white glove” customer support you can give them.

Every small business should strive to provide best-in-class customer support to its clients. The business that can make its customers feel special is the one who will foster loyalty and return visits. Additionally, your reputation – both online and via word-of-mouth marketing – will improve.

A Starter Guide: Customer Service Advice for Small Businesses 

Treat every client like they’re you’re only client… to a point

For any business, quality customer service and support are vital in keeping customers happy and willing to recommend you to their family, colleagues, and friends. If you strive to treat every client like they’re your only client, it’s a win-win. Just make sure you’re not neglecting other clients. Some advice:

  • If you can, assign a Customer Success Representative to each client, and try to have this be the point of contact for that client. Establishing a consistent representative for your business can help make your customer feel more comfortable and understood.
  • Avoid canned responses, and when possible, tailor your communications directly to your client, making sure to keep their preferred communication method and channel in mind.

Set boundaries and expectations… make sure you’re on the same page

If you’re going to grow your business, you need to recognize that some customers are better for your business than others. What this means is that as long as you show respect for your customers and treat them well, they will (and should) respect you and how you run your business. This is the customer that will help you grow, and the kind you want to keep coming back. If you don’t set boundaries with your customers, they can end up creating unneeded stress and consuming valuable time. Some advice:

  • You don’t need to be a 24/7 business if that doesn’t fit within your business model. It’s important that you run your business on your own terms and establish a clear day-to-day schedule with your customers. If you continue making exceptions, your customers might understandably not even know when you are truly open, and continue to expect “after hours” service.
  • Keep your business listings online up-to-date and send out text and/or email communications to your customers when you have modified or changing hours.

Handle things promptly… remember who your audience is

When you’re dealing with anything on social media, it’s critical to always respond quickly and in a professional manner. According to some studies, over 67 percent of Internet users are on social networks, and this means that you need to develop strong relationships with your customers on and offline. Think of it like a relationship: if one side thinks the other isn’t communicating, listening, or engaging, then a breakup might be on the horizon. Remember…

  • On social media, silence leads to losing customers – no response, or a slow response, can be read as apathy or coldness by customers
  • You don’t need to respond seconds after a post, but you should respond. Some incentive? A Harris study showed that 18 percent of people who posted negative reviews and received a reply went on to become loyal customers. And 70 percent reversed the content, either by deleting the negative comment or posting a follow-up positive one. 

It never hurts to ask… for referrals and testimonials 

If you’ve been in business for more than a few months, you probably know that referrals are one the most effective ways to grow your business and attract new, loyal customers. However, you also may HATE asking for referrals, or just not know how. Don’t assume that your customers will just talk about your business, and your great customer service. Remember: the more you ask for referrals, the more you’ll get. Here are some tips:

  • Make asking for a referral part of your routine. With some systems, like Demandforce, you can automatically send a referral follow-up to customers who have just visited your business. These are great ways to not only collect feedback on how you’re doing, but also allow your customers to review you and post those reviews online. Remember that most people like to help out others, especially if it’s not a complicated process.
  • Combine asking for referrals with requesting testimonials – consider creating testimonial cards that you can pass out at your front desk, so that someone can write one and then either drop it in the mail, or email you back. You can also send a targeted email requesting a testimonial or feedback from customers who have rated you highly in a review.

Looking for more advice on how to provide best-in-class customer service? It’s always a good idea to improve your communications, and Demandforce can help. Contact us today to see a demo. We believe in stellar customer service as well! Every Demandforce customer is paired with a Customer Success Manager, who will help you set up and optimize any and all Demandforce features to best suit your business and business goals. Call us at (888) 272-7821, or visit demandforce.com.

 

Managing client expectations with improved client communications

In any small business or practice, managing expectations is crucial to building and maintaining a successful relationship with your clients. However, if you don’t manage client expectations early, you could find yourself in some tense situations later on down the road, or experiencing low retention of your clientele.

One way to manage client expectations is to communicate early on how you’ll send out notifications, updates, or important information that your clients might need/want to know.

Send a Welcome Email

For example, if you are a salon who has recently seen several new clients, we recommend sending out a targeted Welcome email, thanking them for their first visit, and providing more detailed information on your services and history.

If you use a marketing and communications platform like Demandforce to send these messages, you can track open rates and specify specific people to receive the email, all based on data synched directly from your salon management system. And Welcome messages sent via Demandforce have an average open rate of 50 percent! (Based on 2016 Demandforce data).

Find Out Your Client’s Preferred Method of Communication

Another way to manage client expectations is to take time to chat with your client during their first visit, and ask them for their preferred method of communication. You can even ask for their consent to send text message updates, or special offers you might be running, and you can confirm that the data you have in your system is up-to-date and complete. This allows you to make sure that when you send a message, via email, voice call, or text, it’s not unwelcome, and your client knows that you might be contacting them.

Continue to Reach Out

One common mistake businesses make that can affect client expectations is to stop communicating with them after the first few months. If your salon or small business emphasizes a personal touch, and friendly family atmosphere, you need to make good on your promise. Set up custom email campaigns to send automatically to specific clients, promoting specials, loyalty rewards, or discounts. Celebrate important milestones with them by sending birthday and anniversary greetings. And make sure that your clients never miss an upcoming appointment by setting up automatic appointment reminders and recall campaigns to send out based on data collected in your management system.

If you continue to nurture the relationship you have with your client past the first visit and beyond, you’ll turn a new client into a loyal client—and you’ll always exceed your clients’ expectations.

For more information on how you can use the marketing tools and communications solutions provided by Demandforce to manage your client expectations, visit demandforce.com/salon-and-spa.

Do You Offer Online Booking? You Should.

Online booking made easy

In the age of streaming movies, on-demand TV, and two-day product delivery service, if you are a small business or dental/medical office looking to attract more business and grow, you definitely need to offer online booking.

Online Booking Is The Future (Now!)

According to an Accenture forecast for 2019, by that year 66% of health systems will offer patient self-scheduling, and 64% of patients will choose this option as a way to book their appointments. In today’s competitive marketplace, not offering your patients or customers the option to book online might send them to your competitors.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by the marketing firm Yodle, 60% of consumers want the local businesses they frequent to provide online booking, and one-third say they expect it as an offering. So why not give your customers what you want?

It’s Easy to Implement and Offer

Implementing online booking isn’t scary or difficult, and if you use a marketing and customer communications platform like Demandforce, this feature comes ready to use. Online booking can be added to your Yelp page, directly to your website, and via your Demandforce Local page, so that new customers can request or book appointments immediately after they find you online.

This is helpful because over 42% of online bookings happen after business hours, and the majority of customers polled in a recent marketing survey stated they would rather make an appointment online versus an appointment over the phone. Offering online booking not only extends your potential reach for new customers, but it offers your current ones the convenience and features they want.

Be Mobile First with Online Booking

How often do you check your mobile phone? According to a 2016 Smart Insights poll, over 80% of Internet users own a smartphone, and over 50% grab their phone immediately after waking up. For on-the-go customers, it’s imperative now to offer mobile first compatibility for your customers, and online booking is a mobile-friendly feature that will immediately boost your profile online.

Online booking will help you stand out from your competitors online, assisting you in customer acquisition and recall. It will also save your office time, as you won’t need to send quite so many reminders or phone calls, requesting follow-up or return services. Instead, you could set up a custom email campaign that links to a place where customers can go to book online.

These are just a few reasons why you should consider offering online booking for your customers and patients. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of online booking, and how Demandforce integrates online booking in with its other customer communications solutions catered to your industry, visit www.demandforce.com, or call us at (800) 358-5904.

The top marketing trends of 2016

Wow, what a year! As 2016 comes to a close, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the top marketing trends of 2016, and how they relate to your business.

Mobile email and mobile first

Mobile marketing saw a continued steady growth in implementation and use. It’s no surprise that more people are on-the-go and on their phones, and so marketing that is tailored to not only be mobile-friendly, but mobile first, did much better in 2016. 

Social media: not a strategy, but a channel

This was the year that saw a shift in how social media has traditionally been viewed. Social media is not a strategy, but instead a channel, one of many your business should utilize to support its broader campaigns. This is often why social media marketing as a tactic is often more effective than if it’s utilized as a campaign on its own.

Marketing automation

With better UI came a way to create easier multi-channel touch campaigns, and 2016 saw the merging of email marketing and marketing automation. More time was spent on marketing automations, and less on scheduled campaigns and email broadcasts. As it becomes easier to import third-party data to enhance a company’s information about its customers; and as technology continues to improve, marketing automation will become a foundation of future marketing campaigns and strategies.

Hyper-personalization and relationship marketing

This was the year of hyper-personalization and a trend towards relationship marketing versus the hard sell. Again, technology advancements in deliverability, testing, live content, remarketing options, and analytics helped create new ways to connect (and stay connected) with customers and prospects. Many businesses chose to focus on relationship marketing, which meant changing their marketing strategy to be longer-term in focus—building stronger loyalty and long-term customer engagement, rather than quick, short-term customer acquisition and individual sales goals. This helped many businesses develop strong, emotional connections to their brands that drive word-of-mouth promotions and lead generation. Relationship marketing and hyper-personalization go hand-in-hand, as the ability to know how to market to your customers comes from knowing more about them – through data.

Modular templates and interactivity for emails

An interesting marketing trend of 2016 was the choice of many major brands to begin a shift away from one-off, complex and unique emails for every campaign to choosing a more modular template design—one where you can have several different versions of an email from the same template. This saves time and creates a familiar brand identity for your customers, as they begin identifying a certain look to your company or service. Added to this was a rise in animation and interactivity in emails, as marketers sought to keep content fresh, unique, and engaging.

More visual content

Today’s world is one filled with so many different things competing for the attention and eye of your customer. This goes for emails and marketing as well. Your customers need more than plain text to engage. They want valuable content that not only educates, but entertains them as well. That’s where visual content can help. People remember visuals 6x more than plain text, and platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are great forums for visual content.

Why Word-of-Mouth Marketing Still Matters

In business, word-of-mouth marketing often involves a happy customer who promotes your business, product, or service to other people, through referrals, recommendations, online reviews, or social posts. These mentions are most often unpaid (though some referral programs provide incentives), and can be incredibly effective at attracting new customers and providing social proof.

Some important statistics:

  • Word-of-mouth marketing is still the most trusted form of marketing, trusted by 84% of consumers (source: Nielson)
  • 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth when making buying decisions (source: USM)
  • 65% of new business comes from referrals (source: Womma.org)
  • 27% of consumers would pay 15% or more to receive superior customer service (source: Womma.org)
  • Customers acquired through word-of-mouth spend 200% more than the average customer, and make up to 2x as many referrals (source: Business Pulse)

As more businesses focus on organic marketing strategies such as utilizing social media and online reviews to boost business, it’s important to understand why word-of-mouth marketing is valuable and why it still matters.

Word-of-mouth marketing is about trust, and building trust with your customers, vendors, and partners. This is why word-of-mouth marketing is so powerful, and also so trusted. Within our daily conversations, we discuss brands, products, and businesses. It’s part of human nature to want to share good experiences (and bad!) with others, and everyone enjoys being able to recommend a business or product that might help out a friend, relative, or colleague.

Setting up a simple, yet effective, referral campaign

One of the most effective byproducts of good word-of-mouth marketing is a referral from a happy customer. Follow these steps to make it easy for your customers to recommend your business to their friends & family.

  1. Create a compelling offer
  2. Promote your referral program through an eblast and on social media
  3. Make sure the referral process is simple, quick, and easy
  4. Personalize the initial referral messaging and onboarding process
  5. Keep your referral program top-of-mind with social posts & reminder emails
  6. Monitor and optimize your referral program based on results

If you are looking to create your first (or next) referral campaign, Demandforce can help. You can send a pre-written referral campaign email and get help requesting online reviews from happy customers. Get more 5-star reviews and gain more customer advocates with word-of-mouth marketing and grow your business!

How Clickable Are Your CTAs?

A Call-to-Action (CTA) is a vital part of any business website and digital campaign. CTAs are the buttons or links that push traffic to where you want it to go. They drive sales, are important indicators showing how effective your campaigns are, and they are crucial in moving prospects further into the sales process.

Therefore, you should care how clickable your CTAs are, and take the time to test different messages and words to determine what phrases connect to your customers. In this article, we will discuss how to determine how clickable your Call-to-Action buttons are, and we’ll give you some examples of CTAs you could use.

How to build & test your CTAs

When done right, your Call-to-Action button can act as a visual attention-grabber that, when paired with a compelling message and offer, drive people to action. But even creating the CTA can seriously impact your click-through and conversion rate. So here are a few hints on how to test (and build) your CTAs.

Use active language

This might take you back to your high school English class, but active language motivates people much more than passive phrasing. Remind people why they want to take action to encourage clicks as well.

For example, when A/B tested, the phrase “Create My Account & Get Started” converted better than just “Create My Account.” And “Download to Save Time” converted more than just “Download.”

Show the benefit

It follows, then, that providing information about the benefit of clicking also helps. This doesn’t have to be within the button itself, but you can provide information within the same landing page or area your button shows up.

Test button design

The button itself has proven to matter for conversions, so always test certain variables to see what works best for you. Here are our favorites to test:

  • Color – consider contrasting colors that don’t blend into the background
  • Position – test placing the button above the fold, or below all the content needed to explain the offer
  • Size – Don’t get too crazy, but remember the button should be large enough to be easily seen among the other elements on your page
  • Special Effects – Consider graphic enhancements such as rounded corners, drop shadows, or a different hover color
  • White Space – Remember to keep white space around your button, and play with how much so that the eye is quickly drawn to and can stay focused on the CTA

It’s all in the language

So now we come to arguably the most obvious, and most difficult aspect to test in a CTA – the language itself. An ad adage to remember as you think about CTA copy is: people buy with emotion, but follow with logic.

You might have heard that CTAs must convey an urgency to attract impulse clickers, and that CTA should clearly communicate what will happen once you click the button. This is not an area for cleverness or subtlety.

For example, you might be surprised at the lower conversion rates for “Buy Now” buttons, but when you consider that some users might believe their credit card will be automatically charged if they click it… that’s why you see more “Add to Cart” or “Download Now”

Of course, the text does need to match what type of business you are, and what you are trying to get the visitor to do. But if you’re looking for help, Demandforce has done the heavy lifting for you. Our custom email campaigns use optimized language that is proven to drive click-throughs and engagement with your customers.

Some tips:

  • Once you pick a button, keep it consistent on your page. Carry the format and even language through so that your visitors know and familiarize themselves with your buttons.
  • Keep the opportunity. Sometimes soft CTAs work better than hard sells. Language such as “View offers”, “Learn more”, “Shop all” can keep people interested and clicking more than immediate sells, like “Buy now” or “Sign Up.”

Test, test, test!

The best advice we can give you to improve your CTA is to research, test, and tweak! Work with your designers and website guru and A/B test your CTAs on your site and on landing pages. Run user tests to figure out what colors and layout resonate the most with specific demographics. Check in on your analytics and remember – don’t test or change everything at once, or you won’t be able to tell what aspect affected your conversion or click-through rate.

12 Things All Great Bosses Do

In honor of Boss’s Day (which was on Monday, October 17), we wanted to share 12 Things All Great Bosses Do. A lot goes into being a great boss, and how you act can greatly affect and influence your team. But being a boss is tough sometimes, so how can you be a great leader, support for your team, and still enjoy your job as well? Checking out this list is a good way to start.

12 Things All Great Bosses Do

Be authentically passionate.

How can you expect your team to work hard, self-motivate, and get behind your projects if you aren’t? Great bosses are passionate about what they do, and why they do it. And this passion isn’t fake – it’s authentic and inspiring.

Listen to your team.

Stating, “your door is always open,” isn’t good enough. Great bosses are proactive and periodically check in with the individual members on their team. Listen to what you’re hearing.

Be open to input and consider different perspectives.

Great bosses know that they don’t know everything. Be open to input from your team members, and consider different perspectives and ways of doing things – even if those ways differ from what you’ve come up with. A great boss knows that ideas come from not just those at the top, but from everyone in your company. Your office manager or receptionist might have a great idea or suggestion to increase efficiency or bring in new customers, and all you have to do is listen.

Give immediate feedback.

Your team members often want immediate feedback on projects and on situations – especially if they have made mistakes or exceeded expectations. Make sure that you try your best to give immediate feedback instead of saving (and risking forgetting) everything for the quarterly or annual assessment.

Recognize and appreciate the abilities of your team members.

Everyone likes to be appreciated, and a great boss knows the simplest way to stop grumbling before it starts is to recognize and appreciate the abilities of everyone who works for you. A good boss elevates everyone around him or her, and acknowledges them often.

Don’t micromanage.

Take it from the Buffet, who says, “Hire well, manage little.” If you’ve ever been the focus of micromanagement, you know how stifling and frustrating it can be. A great boss trusts in their team members, and allows them to do their work without constant check-ins.

Admit your mistakes and accept responsibility.

Everyone makes mistakes, but great bosses don’t throw people (especially their team members) under the bus. Instead, a great boss will admit mistakes and be willing to discuss the situation openly, looking for lessons learned and opportunities for evaluation. A great boss sets a standard for his team members, so no one plays the blame game.

Be approachable and friendly.

Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference, including just being approachable and friendly to your team members. You don’t have to be that boss who scowls and acts standoffish to their employees. The best bosses chat with their employees (though avoid participating in office gossip) and are friendly; showing their quirky, human side.

Don’t overpromise and keep your word.

One of the quickest ways to lose the trust and goodwill of your employees is by overpromising or always saying, “Yes,” when you can’t make good on your word. The best bosses are honest, and only make promises they can realistically

Keep your team informed.

To the best of your abilities, without divulging information that might harm your team or the company, keep your team informed of what’s happening as it pertains to them, their performance, and the overall health of the company, or the success of their projects. No one likes secrets, and if great bosses make sure that everyone feels well-informed and confident in not only their jobs and their worth—but the stability of their workplace as well.

Celebrate small wins.

Great bosses are great motivators, and one of the best ways to motivate your team is to celebrate the small victories, not just the large ones. A great boss will make sure that their team members are thanked, even with a short email or casual desk drop-by.

Protect your team.

While you’d have to be a pretty poor boss to not want your team to trust you, the difference between an okay boss and a great one is that your employees not only trust you, but they know that you’ll have their backs. Fight for your team members, and protect your team not only from outside blame or in fighting, but from blows to employee morale, like layoffs or negative office rumors.

So how do you stack up? Are you being a boss, like a boss? It’s a tough job sometimes,– but also incredibly rewarding one – and from all of us at Demandforce – Happy Belated Boss’s Day!