Great versus remarkable

January 15, 2020

I think we, as marketers and business owners, have to adjust our expectations. Many business leaders assume that if their organization delivers its promises, that is enough. If all you’re hoping for is a satisfied client – it may be. But if you are expecting your customers to shout from the rooftops how remarkable you are just because you did your job like you said you would, you might be disappointed.

For the last several months, I have been using a cleaning service called The Queen of Clean. Every time they came to clean my house, they did a great job. They were leaps and bounds better than the cleaning company I had been using so they exceeded my expectations, based on what I had been receiving previously.

They left a checklist, showing me what they’d done, and the house was spotless when they left. They kept their promise to me.

In return, I continued our contract and had them come back. But I didn’t tell anyone about them. I didn’t recommend them to anyone. I didn’t leave a positive review anywhere. I didn’t even reach out to the owner to let her know they were doing a great job.

I like to think I’m a nice guy and I understand the power of reviews. So why didn’t I make the effort?

I was satisfied. But nothing more. The good job that the cleaning crew was doing didn’t inspire me to do anything but let them come back. They did what they promised, and I did what I promised in return. The exchange was equitable.

Then, something changed. I came home after being gone for five days. The cleaning crew had been scheduled to clean while I was gone and clean they did. I walked into a very clean house, and I was satisfied.

I went into the master bathroom, and when I flipped on the lights, I started to laugh. One of the ladies had taken the time to use the vacuum cleaner hose to “sculpt” Mickey Mouse’s head into my bathroom rug. As you might guess if you know anything about me, my entire house has a healthy sprinkling of Disney items throughout so she just added to my “collection” of Disney art but in a very original way.

At that moment, I went from being a happy customer to being a delighted one.

Here’s what I did in response:

  • I took pictures of the rug and posted them on my Facebook wall, and I tagged the Queen of Clean’s Facebook page
  • I liked the Queen of Clean’s Facebook page and wrote a post, sharing my photo and telling them how Tori’s artwork had made my day
  • I left them their first review on Angie’s List
  • I left a 5-star review on YELP which counterbalanced a very negative review
  • I saw on their Facebook page that they were supporting a charitable event, so I participated in that opportunity with them
  • I am writing about them and mentioning them by name on purpose, so other people can learn about them

All of that happened not because they did a good job cleaning my house, but because they made me laugh out loud. Because they paid attention to who I was as a customer and went out of their way to do a little something extra that had nothing to do with their core service.

A little something extra. That’s all it takes to go from having a satisfied but silent customer to creating a fan who will sing your praises on review sites, to their friends, and on social media.

Which would you prefer?

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Why referrals can’t be the only answer

December 24, 2019

When I meet a business owner or leader, I love learning about their organization and how they attract new clients. Once they find out I own an agency, the talk almost always turns to marketing and sales. Inevitably they will say something along the lines of “most of our business comes from referrals” and for them, I believe this actually translates to:

“We don’t have to do much marketing because our customers are happy enough with us that they send us their friends.”

There is no more powerful marketing than a referral. It’s inexpensive, effective and odds are, the sale is usually a slam-dunk. Today, thanks to all of the rating and review sites out there, our referral reach is greater than ever before.

But it’s not enough. All referrals are not equal. I’m guessing you are serving a client right now that you aren’t making a dime on and in fact, you are probably paying for the privilege of working with them. Why? Because one of your good clients made the referral, so you feel obligated. Let’s call this referral customer Bargain City.

I’m also guessing you are serving customers today who need things that are not quite in your wheelhouse but you have gerry rigged your process or system to accommodate them. Sure, it’s more expensive and labor-intensive to do, but it’s how you make them happy. For the sake of the conversation, let’s call this client Custom.

Let’s look at this pattern and see where it goes. Referrals are wonderful and satisfying. There’s nothing better than having a customer love you and your work enough that they introduce you to someone who is important to them and ask us to take good care of them. While they are wonderful endorsements from clients we greatly value, they are also an obligation. We feel compelled to serve them because we don’t want to disappoint the referral source. This is not really an issue if most of your referrals come from an anonymous online source. But for most of us, the lion’s share of the referrals are coming from within our own customer base and often times, from the clients we value the most.

So when they send someone our way, we do feel a sense of obligation. Which is how we find ourselves serving Bargain City and Custom. Having one or two of these types of new customers isn’t an issue. We can probably afford to take on one or two less profitable clients. And our systems can tolerate one or two aberrations from our carefully created processes that allow us to deliver incredible results efficiently. It’s not ideal but we’ll survive both.

But if we rely on referrals as our sole or biggest source of new opportunities, then over time, those anomalies become not the exception, but the rule. Now we have a problem. Now, we are losing money over price and process. And someone else is defining our business for us.

The truth is, the more referrals you get, the more and better your marketing needs to be. You need to clearly define for the marketplace (including your current clients) that you best serve, the specific products, services and outcomes you deliver. Your marketing and outbound sales efforts need to create boundaries and thresholds, so both your existing customers and their referrals can clearly see how you do business. And you need to attract and win enough “right fit” customers that you can afford to take on a few Bargain City and Custom clients to honor your existing relationships.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Low Tech but Effective

August 14, 2019

low techLooking for new customers?

In today’s 24/7 plugged-in world, we tend to focus on the digital marketing tactics that are all the rage. Social media, SEO, and content marketing seem to get top billing of late but don’t let all the hype distract you from some of the simpler, low tech tactics that have worked for decades.

Long before there was any mass media, advertising venues or even town criers – people relied on people they knew to steer them to the best establishments and buying experiences.

Word of mouth and referrals are as old as time and they’re as influential today as they were back then. In fact, as consumers are bombarded by more and more ads, the raves of a friend or colleague seem even more compelling.

Every business, even if you’re running at capacity right now, needs to have an active program to cultivate and earn new clients. No matter how good you are, a certain percentage of customers will always come and go, even if you’re doing an incredible job. So, you must always be adding new prospects to the sales funnel. While I have covered how to leverage your website to feed the funnel in the past, I’d like you to consider a more low tech option as well.

I want to suggest a weekly activity that should go on every business owner/leader’s To-Do list.

I want to warn you. You might read this and think, “well duh, Drew. Is that your big idea? Of course, we should be doing this.” But before you dismiss it as incredibly obvious or so basic that it’s stupid – ask yourself if you’re actually doing it. My guess is, the answer will be no. Which is why I’m writing about it.

Put together two lists. The first list should include all of your current clients that you actually like working with and would gladly welcome another client like them. The second list should be every past client (over the last five years) that you actually miss doing business with.

Starting with your current client list – start scheduling a breakfast, coffee, lunch, drink, etc. with each of them…so you have one meeting each week. Ideally, between the two lists (over time) you could fill a year’s worth of weekly appointments.

At this weekly meeting, your goal is two-fold. First, you want to genuinely let this person know that you and your team appreciate them and enjoy working with them. In the case of past clients, let them know that you miss working with them. Be sure you tell them specifically what makes them such a good client for your company. After all, you want them to help you find someone else with the same traits.

Your second goal is to ask for a referral. Tell your client/previous client that you’d like another client just like them and ask for their help. It’s amazing to me how eager our clients are to help us grow our business when we take the time to ask.

If you’re successful at booking a weekly meeting at least 40 weeks out of the year and if 25% those people can connect you to a new prospect or two, and you land half of them – that’s five new clients and 40 renewed and rejuvenated relationships.

Here are the upsides of this tactic:

  • New clients who match the profile of your best clients
  • Your existing clients will feel appreciated and some of them will buy more
  • Some of your previous customers will probably come back

Low tech, low risk, and huge rewards. Why wouldn’t you start your lists today?


Today’s version of word of mouth marketing

March 13, 2019

word of mouthPreviously, we talked about influencer marketing, which is a combination of old-school PR and word of mouth, with a technology twist. Today, anyone can create a position of authority, build a community around them and as a result, be an influencer.

There are the influencers we’ve always known, like athletes and actors, but more interesting and more potentially valuable to the average brand are the micro-influencers. These subject matter experts may have relatively small followings (could be as few as 500 or as many as half a million) compared to The Rock or Kourtney Kardashian. But to the people who follow them, their advice, point of view and recommendations carry significant weight.

Most of them are not “celebrities” in the traditional sense. They’re a 14-year old boy who reviews technology for teens, they’re a fitness coach who works with busy moms, or they’re an accountant who helps other accountants build their practice. That’s part of their charm – they feel accessible and ordinary enough that we can relate to them, their choices and their life.

The value of the influencers is not really their follower count. It’s the depth of credibility and connection they have with their audience. It’s very much like when your best friend recommends a movie or restaurant. Because it came from them (word of mouth) – you want to check it out. Today’s channels (podcasting, blogs, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) create that sense of intimacy and confidence between themselves and their audience. So whether they have 500 followers or 500,000 – the key is that their followers actually pay attention and take action, based on their content.

If you’re ready to dip your toe into this marketing tactic, there are some things you should keep in mind to maximize your investment and avoid trouble.

Follow the FTC rules: The FTC views having a celebrity or influencer endorse your product or service as an advertisement, even if no money exchanged hands. Whether you give them a free sample, or you pay them for using your product in a photo – the influencer must disclose that they are being compensated. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy disclaimer. It can be as simple as a hashtag (like #sponsored), or it can be a sentence or two that explains the relationship.

The trick to this is – you’re responsible even though you are not creating the content. You need to make sure the influencer is following the rules by monitoring what they are publishing. If they’re producing a series of blog posts, the disclosure must be on every post, not just the first one.

Be creative with your content: While the FTC views influencer marketing as advertising, it really shouldn’t be constructed to look like an ad. Work with the influencer to make the content interesting and useful, rather than use them posing with your product or endorsing your service. Have them tell a story and have your brand be a character in that story.

Reviews, demonstrations, an on-going series showing your product through some sort of evolution or a giveaway contest are all ways you can increase engagement with the influencer’s audience and encourage them to go from reading about you to wanting to learn more or even sample what you sell.

We are just at the beginning of this trend, and there’s nothing to suggest this is a short-term opportunity. No matter what you sell – this is a new twist on a tried and true tactic that is even better than it was initially. In the old days, a celebrity endorsed a product to everyone. Today, an influencer talks directly to the people you want to connect with and makes that introduction.



Who is an influencer?

March 6, 2019

InfulencerHere are some truths we need to grapple with in today’s economy:

  • Consumers trust word of mouth recommendations from family and friends more than advertising
  • Consumers trust recommendations from perfect strangers more than advertising
  • Anyone can create a position of authority and attract a community if they demonstrate expertise, credibility and consistently produce content to keep that audience engaged

All of those truths have led to the popularity and effectiveness of influencer marketing. If you aren’t familiar with the term, influencer marketing is a new twist on an old tactic. Remember celebrity endorsements? When someone you liked, an actor or athlete, endorsed a product or service, you thought more favorably about it. Expand that definition of “celebrity” to anyone who has created subject matter celebrity or notoriety and has a defined audience that trusts their endorsements.

This could be a teenager who reviews technology for other teens on YouTube, it could be a person who reviews convention hotels, or it could be a mom with a popular blog aimed at other moms. These people have some things in common that will help you identify them as a genuine influencer:

  • They regularly produce content on a specific topic
  • They give away a lot of information for free
  • Typically, they will have a core channel (YouTube, podcast, blog, etc.) but also have a very active social presence
  • They have attracted a group of people who are all interested in their niche topic and consume their content regularly (through subscription, attending live events, etc.)
  • They rarely stray from their core topic or subject matter expertise
  • They write for other publications, channels, or media outlets

No matter what their specific subject matter expertise is, all of these people have the ability to influence the behavior and/or opinions of their audience because they’ve earned their trust.

One of the biggest shifts in this tactic is the emergence of micro-influencers. Back when we only had three to four channels (TV, radio, print, outdoor) all of the influencers were bigger names and had a broad base of appeal. In 1960, you might have seen a magazine ad featuring Claudette Colbert telling you why she chose to smoke Chesterfield cigarettes or Humphrey Bogart reminding you to buy a box of Whitman’s chocolates. Today, we’d call these kinds of celebrity endorsements macro influencers.

Interestingly, they are not the focus when it comes to influencer marketing now. In a world where niching and targeting are greatly valued, the power seems to be in the micro-influencer. Consider Mischa Pollack who has 74,000+ subscribers on his Drunk Tech Review channel on YouTube where he leads a roundtable discussion (with alcohol being liberally consumed) and testing of gadgets, technology and toys (anything from Bluetooth speakers to jet packs) or Alexandra Lerner who uses Instagram to talk about yoga and wellness, while collaborating with brands who want to reach her audience.

Micro-influencers could have as few as 500 followers/subscribers but most have between 10,000 -500,000. You name a topic and there is someone out there who has built a following around that subject. One of the challenges of influencer marketing is that it’s a bit like the wild, wild west. In some cases, the influencer will have a media kit, pricing, and contracts. In other cases, you will have to work with the influencer to define the rules and deliverables of the campaign because they haven’t formalized their process yet.

This can be a very effective tactic, but it can also go south in a hurry. Next time, we’ll explore some best practices for working with influencers to make sure you get a great ROI from your efforts.



The review is in

November 8, 2017

reviewLast week we explored how customers have taken to the web, social networks and review sites when they have something to say about a company or any customer service need – good or bad.

This isn’t just a retail problem. B-to-B customers can complain about you on Twitter or Facebook and there are new review sites cropping up every day for professionals ranging from physicians to contractors and everyone in between.

I believe we need to add a whole new capacity to our marketing departments. We cannot afford not to monitor and respond to our consumers – no matter where they speak out. So how do you create this capacity in your company?

Conduct an audit: Do an extensive search and identify all of the places where your customers already post commentary, customer service issues or reviews. Then identify additional places that it’s likely they might post something in the future.

Monitor the sites/do searches to find additional mentions: You need to actively and regularly monitor all the sites you identified in your audit. For most of you, this doesn’t need to be an hourly or even daily occurrence. But at the very least you should be monitoring the sites weekly.

Respond. Every time: This is the tough part for many businesses. It’s easy to say thank you to the good reviews but what do you say to the one star or negative reviews?

You always start with “I’m sorry.” Saying I’m sorry doesn’t mean you are accepting blame or agreeing with them. It means that you are sorry they had, from their perspective, a bad experience. So you can say something like “I’m sorry you were disappointed” or “I’m sorry we didn’t live up to your expectations.” But the words I’m sorry need to be there. Up front and before you offer any explanation.

From there, you have a couple options. If you can’t really address their complaint or don’t know enough of the circumstances, you can continue with something like “We’re always disappointed when we don’t wow our guests, so we will definitely try to do better next time.” If you can address the situation, do so. “You’re absolutely right, we were not at our best Saturday night. We had several people call in sick and we were woefully understaffed. I’m so sorry your experience was tainted by our internal scheduling issues.”

Offer to take the conversation offline: You don’t want to carry on a lengthy discussion of the issue online. So offer to continue by phone or in person. “I’d love to get some more details about your experience, if you’d be willing to tell me about it. Would you call me at the office at XXX-XXXX or email me at”

Make amends if it makes sense: If you really messed up, why not ask them to give you another shot on you? “I feel terrible that you didn’t have a good stay. We’d like to remedy that. Please contact me at XXX-XXXX so I can arrange for you to come back on us.” And before you ask – no, this is not going to create an avalanche of bad reviews just so you give away free stuff.

Sign your response: Put your name and your title at the end of your response. You don’t want to be some anonymous employee. You want them to connect with you as a real person.

Why respond? You need to recognize that responding is both a customer service issue and a marketing function. You may or may not be able to change the reviewer’s opinion of you. But how you handle it (or if you ignore it) speaks volumes to everyone else reading the review.

Respond with authenticity, with grace and humility. But respond. Every single time.



They’re talking about you on social media

November 1, 2017

social mediaI think it’s probably the understatement of our generation to say that the troika of the computer, Internet, and social media has completely changed the way everyone does business. Even if you own a single location, Mom and Pop shop – the Internet and social media touch your business. Whether you engage there or not.

That’s the key sentence of this column. Whether you engage there or not.

In the good old days (translation – before the late ’80s) if a customer had a complaint, they only had a few choices:

  • They could keep it to themselves
  • They could call your local or 800 number to complain
  • They could write you a letter
  • They could complain at their bridge game, kid’s little league outing or during their night out with friends

Even if they did the last three in tandem – odds are, only a handful of people would hear about their issue. If you ignored their complaint (or never heard about it because they only shared it with their social circle) the damage was pretty localized. It was hardly a smart business strategy but it’s a mistake you could survive.

Fast forward to today. According to research cited in Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters (a great read – put it on your list!), people are complaining in record numbers but they’re not doing it the old-fashioned way. They’re taking it to the people.

No one is calling or writing to the offending company anymore. They’re turning to social media and firing off an email right before they head to the review sites. Today’s tools are so much louder and have an incredible reach. And yet, most businesses choose to ignore these complainers – leaving their diatribes and harsh words out there, undefended.

If you’re lucky, they are leaving reviews on sites you control or see on a regular basis, like your Facebook page, your Twitter feed or your Google reviews. Unfortunately, for you – odds are there are a few websites out there, like Yelp (it’s not just for restaurants – check out their professional services section) or Rate my Professor or that also allow disgruntled customers to vent their feelings for the world to see.

Depending on the study, between 68 – 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations by friends or colleagues. Despite the fact that people are much more likely to place a bad review versus make the time to praise a business, not all reviews are bad reviews. When consumers read a positive review, 72% of them say it increases the trust they have in that business. Really, when was the last time you spent a significant amount of money that the Internet was not a source of information as you made that buying decision?

So, tell the truth, have you been like most business owners and leaders and opted to ignore what’s being said about you online or have you taken a look? Like it or not, our world today dictates that you must care about online reviews. You need to figure out where your prospects go to read reviews when they’re trying to decide whom to do business with and you need to pay special attention to what’s being said there.

Think your customers would never complain because you deliver every time? One of the most eye-opening stats in Baer’s book is that 80% of businesses believe they deliver superior customer service. 8% of their customers agree. Clearly, there’s a disconnect that needs fixing.

Next week, we’re going to describe how to find those reviews and how to respond to them in a way that serves your business well.



The reviews aren’t good

July 19, 2017

reviewsIn the “good old days” when a neighbor or work colleague told you how much they enjoyed a nearby B&B, movie or restaurant, it mattered.  Word of mouth has always been one of marketing’s most potent weapons.  Today – we have word of mouth marketing on steroids with online reviews.

Interestingly, in a wide range of surveys examining the effectiveness of online reviews, the data is pretty telling. Depending on the research, somewhere between 84-90% of us trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Nearly 9 out of every 10 consumers has used online reviews to influence a purchase and about 40% of us use them on a regular basis as part of our buying process. Most people read between 6-10 reviews and they usually read the most recent reviews first.

Why do we give perfect strangers the same credibility score as our neighbors and friends?

  • We believe in the aggregate. One bad review suggests a fluke or someone had a grudge but when there’s a pattern, we’re willing to believe the crowd.
  • We assume that the reviewers are people like us who have no axe to grind but just want to be helpful.
  • We give more credibility to the “average Joe” than we do to marketing or corporate speak. In other words – I want to hear what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself.

Given both the number of consumers who rely on online reviews and the level of trust they put in them – it’s not something businesses can ignore.   And this isn’t just about restaurants or hotels anymore. Whether you’re a dentist, restaurant, ad agency, professor or an insurance agent – between Angie’s List and all of the specialty lists out there – everyone is being rated.

Interestingly – businesses seem to be adopting the head in the sand approach to bad reviews.  Even though almost every rating site will allow the proprietor to respond, very few do.

That is a huge missed opportunity. Every business owner, CMO etc. should be tracking where their business is being rated and monitoring those ratings.  While the ideal is that you’d respond to all the reviews (odds are there are not that many), you should at the very least react to the negative ones.

Here are some best practices for responding to negative reviews.

  • Apologize. Use the words “I am sorry” to acknowledge that they had a bad experience, even if you don’t believe it was your fault.
  • Refer to them by name if you can.
  • Identify yourself by name and title so they know who is responding to them.
  • If there really was a problem – don’t sugar coat it. Admit that you blew it and what you’re doing to make sure the next guest does not experience the same thing.
  • After your initial response, if they reply – take it offline. While you want everyone reading the reviews to see that you care, you don’t need to play out the entire conversation online.
  • If you feel like you can win them back – offer to compensate them in some way. And no, this will not encourage a bunch of people to leave bad reviews just to get a coupon or free meal from you.
  • Talk like a human, not a corporate committee. Use conversational language so they know there’s a human being behind your comments.

No matter what you do – ignoring negative reviews is not an option.  They are too influential to your prospects and when they go unanswered, they’re taken as gospel and can chase away potential business. So settle in and try to make some lemonade out of those lemons.


Referrals don’t happen by accident

April 26, 2016

Referrals: do you really want them?Referrals don’t happen by accident. When I talk to some small business owners they proudly tell me that most of their new customers come to them via referrals. And I congratulate them – there’s no better marketing than having a customer rave about your work.

But relying on your customers to decide that they’re going to actively recruit new clients for you is probably not a brilliant marketing plan.

Think of a product or service that you really like and use regularly. Okay – now, how many people did you talk to today about that product or service? How about yesterday?

For our example, let’s pretend this product/service that you love is your barber. It’s not that you don’t love him. But you have other things going on in your world. So unless someone mentions they’re looking for a new barber or compliments your hair, odds are, you aren’t going to mention your barber. Even though you are a raving fan.

Your clients are the same way. They may love what you do but most days, they’re not thinking about you or telling other people about you. So does that mean growing your business by referrals is a bad thing? No – it just means you can’t leave it to fate or your customer’s undying love. You have to give referrals a helping hand.

Want to figure out how to boost referrals, try one (or more) of these ideas:

Throw an exclusive party: Create an event that your best customers would love to attend. Not like – but love. I’m talking take a day off work to go if they had to kind of love. Send them an invitation and explain that it’s an exclusive event – that only your best customers are being invited. But, as a special thank you for their business – they can invite one guest. The only caveat is the guest cannot be a current customer.

Promise them that they’ll be no sales pitch or selling. You just want to meet more people like them and you want them to be able to share this cool event with someone. Now, you’ve got a buzz worthy event which will generate its own word of mouth marketing and your best customers are walking prospects right to your door.

Love them: At MMG, many years ago we created our own holiday called Who Loves Ya Baby Day. (A hat tip to Telly Savalas in his Kojak days). On that day, which happens to be Valentine’s Day – we shower our clients with love. We let them know how much we value them and their trust in us. We create a special card to thank them and literally to say that we love them. Because we do.

In your own way – you need to let your customers know that they’re more than a buck in the cash register to you. Create something that overtly expresses your affection for them in a way that they can’t help but talk about.

Be shareable smart: Everyone wants to be helpful and be perceived as being on top of their game. Become a reliable resource of useful insights and information for your customers. Send them tools (e-newsletter, infographics, tip sheets, etc.) that they can and will pass along to their peers because of their value. Then, without even meaning to, they’re referring people to you with each share.

Which, of course, means what you send them has to be truly valuable, not self-serving. No one is going to pass along your sales flier or promotional materials. The added advantage of this tactic is not only do you get the referral but your content also reinforces the message that you really know your stuff.

Referrals are an incredibly valuable way to grow your business. But even your biggest fans need a little nudge.


Playbook for word of mouth

July 6, 2015

fizzTed Wright’s new book Fizz (affiliate link) is a fantastic playbook for word of mouth that’s fun to read and easy to connect with your business and how you could take the examples and modify them to work for you.

Wright works hard to demystify this area of organic marketing that seems to create so much confusion and missteps. you’ll appreciate the examples of both what works and what happens when things go really wrong.

No matter what size is your business, you’ll be able to implement the ideas on the book as it explores strategies, techniques, and approaches of building a company and a brand worth talking about.


One of the reasons why this playbook for word of mouth isn’t just another fluff book is that Wright has actually had a hand in a lot of the examples and he offers up data like sales results, so you can see that it’s not just about creating buzz but it’s ultimately about creating sales.

This book is entertaining to read but at the end of the day, as Wright says at the opening of his playbook — it will actually help you “sell more stuff to more people more often for more money.”

Hard to argue with that. Get your copy from Amazon here. (affiliate link)