Pop-By Gifts for Realtors & Other Business Professionals

While developing a special gratitude program to help real estate agents say thank you to their clients, I learned that the most successful agents use pop-by gifts to strengthen relationships. These are little “thinking of how much I appreciate you” or “reminding you I still exist” kinds of gifts, usually tied into the month or season. So for example, an ice cream scoopIce Cream Scoop, thermal bag for keeping foods cool or some sunscreen in the summer. Or a snow scraper, umbrella or a pair of gloves in the winter. The gifts are paired with a cute gift note that ties into the theme, such as “don’t get burned by working with someone who’s less than professional” to go with the sunscreen.

Such appealing reminders keep you top of mind and generate referral business. Realtors are certainly not the only professionals who need to consistently stay in touch with past and current clients. This pop-by gift idea is awesome for almost any business, including those in financial services, internet marketing, and sales training. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to implement regular appreciation marketing, nor do you need to drop off the gifts in person. And think about how much of an impact a small, unexpected thank you gift would have on a customer’s day.

It’s back to school season. Seeing all the sale flyers in the Sunday paper this weekend, one idea I came up with is to send mini dry-erase boards with the note “I appreciate working with you” written on it in dry erase crayon. Clients will get a kick out of the sentiment and creative delivery and then can reuse the board around their office.

You can tie your gift idea into a time or event in your industry, such as a tax file folder sent out in January from accounting professionals, or use a more general concept like sharing a box of note cards in November so your recipients will have them to use for holiday gift thank yous.

I love the creativity involved here and while coming up with memorable client gift ideas and messages is fun for me, not everyone has an easy time with this task. If it’s not easy or fun for you, don’t do it! Get in touch with me and let’s put together a customized done-for-you program. Saying thank you and consistently staying in touch with your customers is imperative to your success. Why are you waiting?

Good Grammar vs. Personality in Your Writing

I read an article last week on hbr.com titled “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” While many of my clients, colleagues and friends took offense and justified their feelings by saying grammar isn’t that important anymore, I applaud the author. Grammar mistakes do make you look stupid.
Yes, writing and speech has become more casual and that’s not a bad thing. But poor speech is.

Here’s why it’s important. When you want to improve client retention or say thank you to your loyal customers, you need to use tools that build strong relationships with them. Some of those tools may be newsletters, blogs and thank you notes. It’s important to use good grammar in your writing so that your audience takes you seriously and sees you as a credible source. My financial adviser, real estate agent or attorney doesn’t need to be a legendary novelist, but I do want to work with someone who knows how to properly use language. I’m not so trusting of the one who ain’t got no need to be real good at words ‘n sh*t.

That said, I also believe there’s room for incorporating your personality. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Writing how you speak, infusing your personal style into your communications, is one fantastic means of differentiating yourself from others in your field. Writing with personality makes you more interesting and helps build stronger relationships with your audiences.

There is a difference between using regional colloquialisms that are ingrained and define who you are vs. flat out poor grammar such as “I got some ice cream for her and I.”

Maybe you weren’t as “lucky” as I was to have parents and grandparents who consistently corrected your speech from the time you started talking. Perhaps Ms. Huertas didn’t teach English at your high school and you weren’t forced to learn “The 10 Offenders.” (#1-Do not end your sentences with a preposition.)

If that was the case, there are great resources you can use to educate yourself. Lynne Truss’s book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is a good start, as is Strunk & White’s classic “The Elements of Style.” Definitely do not turn to today’s radio and television broadcasters, save for anomaly Brian Williams.

For those of you reading this post and making note that I’ve started a sentence with the word and or but, let me say this, “you have to know the rules to break the rules.”

Save Yourself from Looking Foolish

The email that showed up in my inbox yesterday from Hyundai Motors reminded me of the importance of list segmentation. And how your business can look foolish, lazy and ignorant if you don’t use it. This email, and I actually got two of them, so I must be in the database twice, invited me to “Save big. Think big” at the Hyundai summer Sales Event.

“Lori, thinking of upgrading? As a Hyundai owner, you have the chance to act fast and save big.”

Really? I just bought my new Hyundai in January. They think I should upgrade already? Clearly they’ve just thrown all the email addresses they have into one giant vat. Everyone gets the same offer regardless of whether she has a six-year old car or a six-month old car. I’m surprised that a company such as Hyundai doesn’t realize that segmentation can strengthen customer relationships, not to mention increase sales.

List segmentation can be as simple or complex as you like

If you have different categories of people in your database, and you should, make sure you’re segmenting your lists. You can do this even if you’re using something as simple as a basic spreadsheet. Create some kind of designation for customers, for prospects, for vendors, etc. You could take it a step further and segment customers by what product or service they’ve purchased or in the case of prospects, which one they are interested in.

Now when you send out offers, you can make them specific to each category of recipient. You become more relevant and credible and your offers will be more effective. Trade in your six-year old car and get our special Eco-Trade Bonus! Been thinking about buying a whirly-gig to improve efficiency in your financial services office? Now’s the time because…

When it comes to ways to thank your customers, list segmentation can be equally important. Yes, it’s a nice idea to think that all clients are equally valuable, but the truth is they are not. Some spend more money or send you more referrals and therefore have a higher lifetime value than others. Others are easier and more fun to work with or require less hand-holding.

Dividing your customer appreciation efforts into tiers and rewarding the A-listers either more frequently or in a bigger way than the B’s and C’s is a smart strategy. The A-list clients are the ones who are the most profitable for you, so it stands to reason that you should spend more time and money to keep them. You don’t ignore the rest of your clients, but you may choose to put fewer resources into their retention.

List segmentation allows you to make more intelligent, accurate decisions. Need help figuring out the best method of segmenting or creating a tiered program to thank loyal customers? Set up a complimentary 15-minute strategy session with me simply by going to https://tungle.me/zenrabbit.

Building Better Customer Relationships

There was an article a couple of weeks ago in Forbes.com on “Four Ways Brands Can Build Better Relationships.” The author mentioned that today’s marketer needs to go beyond transactional relationships and expand to interactional relationships. As a business person, selling something is not enough. You have to make a human connection. Even, or maybe especially, if you’re selling online.

Your customers and clients CRAVE personal interaction. Everyone’s spending tons of time online and communicating electronically, but humans are designed for more tactile connections. Remember the old Bell Systems’ tagline “reach out and touch someone”?

Life = Relationships. How you interpret that may vary. Some say their business is their life. Others view work as a means to living a good life. Doesn’t matter; it all comes down to whatever kind of life you choose, the most satisfactory ones are built on a foundation of solid relationships. And it’s not likely you can long maintain bad or weak business relationships and still enjoy a good life.

Phone calls, printed newsletters, handwritten notes, gifts delivered to one’s doorstep are all essential tools that will strengthen your connection to customers and thus increase client loyalty. You’ve heard it before – happier customers send you referrals and the combination of those two elements ultimately equate to more profits.

YES, these things “cost” more than sending an email and may take more than 30 seconds to craft, but the investment pays off in multiples. Stop being cheap and employing the short-term, transaction-based mentality that has derailed so many big company executives in the past several years. Get with the 2012 program and become humanly relevant.

Responsive like a Porsche

Andy’s one of the “new guys” in my leads group so he and I met up in a one-to-one last week. About a year ago, he left his corporate job to start his own company and now he’s serving as the IT department for companies that aren’t big enough to have someone full-time in-house.

Porsche_911I asked why his clients like working with him and to his great credit, he did NOT say, because we provide excellent service. (If you’ve been a long-time Rabbit Rouser reader, you know that response is way too overused, means nothing and completely sets me off. Ha Ha.) He said responsiveness. His newest client signed on with him because her previous vendor wouldn’t respond to requests for days. In contrast, he’s been getting back to this client’s employee’s requests within hours. Even if he can’t fix it right away, he at least lets them know he’s aware and on top of it. Not surprisingly, they are thrilled with him.

In fact, Andy told me one of the criticisms his boss had for him in corporate was that he set client expectations too high. Perfect! Now he’s just set the bar higher and made it more difficult for anyone else who comes along thinking they can poach his clients.

Acknowledgement and attention will win you fans every time. Sure, auto-responder generated emails make it easy for requests to be acknowledged, but everyone knows those aren’t personal responses. Technology is great, to a point. Even in the tech industry, people want personal. Clients want to know their issues are worthy of your attention and you will be providing them the service they want and need, hopefully soon!

Even in today’s mostly service-based economy, many clients feel the need for touch. (Get your mind out of the gutter, you.) I mean, they like the idea of personal communication and seeing something physical. This is why face to face meetings are still important, and why sending thank you notes written on paper or gifts that come in boxes make such a huge impression.

Don’t be afraid to set the bar high and make that mark the new standard in your industry or community. Making the new rules means stronger client relationships, happier customers and better client retention. The only ones who won’t look good are the competitors who can’t keep up.

Respect for Time

Doctors appointments are one of those things that you just can’t delegate to someone else. Today was my third visit to Dr. H and the first time I didn’t have to wait more than 25 minutes to see him. So not only does he get to inflict pain, as there’s some physical therapy involved, I have to wait around for it.

When I show up on time, I expect him to do the same. And while I get sometimes there are emergencies that can throw off the schedule, it would be nice to have notice if that is indeed the case. How about a text message to say they’re running 30 minutes behind, or at least a heads up when I arrive.

Everyone’s time is valuable and in my book, it’s a matter of respect to honor someone’s time by not wasting it. Updates are equally important when it comes to serving your customers. Companies such as Amazon and Zappos have set the bar for delivery expectations pretty high. Stories of deliveries made less than 24 hours after order placement create a belief that every company can, should and will be able to do the same.

Fair or not, it is what it is and it’s your job to set the proper expectations for what your business can and will deliver so you still look good. You will boost client retention by letting them know ahead of time what to expect from doing business with you. Can you pledge to return phone calls within two hours? Keep them waiting no longer than five minutes? Ship packages within 24 hours? Whatever it is that you do, give your clients the guidelines of how you do it so they know what to expect and aren’t disillusioned or disappointed. Now they have an increased level of comfort, which makes them more likely to come back again, and share their experience and recommendation with others.

PS: Today I didn’t have to wait because I learned if I make my appointment for 2:00, I’ll be the first one after lunch, so no one ahead of me to mess up the schedule!