The Email Subscription List

EmailOne of the best things that any business can do is to generate an Email List, especially, an Email SUBSCRIPTION List.  With an email list, bookkeepers can email invoices and sales receipts to customers.  Even better, the advertising department (or person) can use an Email Subscription List to send out advertisements to customers and thus generate additional sales.  If nothing else, having an email subscription list gives a business an opportunity to remind customers that they exist – that they have products that might interest the customer at any time of year, and to offer extra incentives for getting them to “come in” to the store.  Having an email list, you can save hundreds and thousands of dollars on advertising while still making sales.

To further drive this point home, I am going to use a quick example from the blogging world.  in the blogging world, there is a saying that is repeated over and over again.

That saying is:  “There’s money in the list.”

Some bloggers will even go so far as to say, “Your list is like an ATM machine.  When you want money, you go to your email list and send out a sales email, then Boom!  Instant Cash.” 

You see, in the blogging world, bloggers believe that you don’t need a thousand customers to have a profitable blogging business.  All you need is a few loyal customers that you can sell to again and again.

The same holds true for the business world.  When you need to up your sales, send out a “Special Sale Email” to your list and watch your bottom line take a jump.

So how do you go about building an email subscription list for your business?

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Here are five strategies to get you started: 

  1. Email Subscription Company:  If you have a website and you sell products online to customers all over the country, then the first thing you will want to build a successful subscription list is to subscribe to a company like Aweber or GetResponse.  These companies can help you subscribe and have your customers “Confirm” their subscriptions so that you aren’t marked as “Spam”.  As an added bonus, when subscribers “Confirm” their subscriptions, then you know that those people WANT to be contacted about your specials and other news.  Aweber and GetResponse handle all of those steps, and all you have to do is set it up, and then send out the occasional “Broadcast.”
  2. imageA Widget On Your BlogIf you have a blog or website, then you should have what is called a “Widget” on your blog that encourages people to join your email list.  It is a very simple way to capture email addresses, and you can make custom widgets from your Email Subscription Company.  If you don’t opt for the Email Subscription Company, then you can use a “Plug-In” from your blog site to create a list.  Our Custom Aweber widget looks like this (just to give you an idea):
  3. The Fishbowl:  This is a trick that is commonly used in the Mary Kay world to get leads and contacts.  The consultant basically puts out a fishbowl whenever they do a special event, then they encourage potential leads to fill out a mini-questionnaire with phone numbers and email addresses.  The same can be done for any business.  A simple $2 fishbowl right by the register, along with a mini-questionnaire about customer service or a request for email addresses is often all that is needed to get the email address.  Just make sure to put “Would you like to be notified by email about our specials?” on that min-survey so that you only email the people who are receptive to it.  (Another way to do this is to just have a “Guest Book” or sign up sheet near the register, and ask every customer if they would like to join your list as you make a sale.)  [ad#Leaderboard]
  4. The Free Lunch: Something that goes very well with the fishbowl is the “Free Lunch” prize.  Of course, if you aren’t a restaurant, then you don’t want to offer a free lunch, but you can offer anything from an “Instant Discount” to a monthly promotional product (that maybe you got for free from a vendor).  Basically, you’re offering a bribe for their contact information.  The nice part about this, however, is that they don’t have to fill out a form.  They simply small salad with limedrop in their business card.  It saves you a bit on printing out surveys, and still gets you the contacts.  Only downside is that you spend a little bit of money in order to give those monthly prizes, but the upside is a list you can sell to again and again.
  5. The “Freebie” Bribe:  For online sites, the “free lunch” is known as a “Freebie” and it is also a bribe that goes with “getting the contact info.”  This bribe usually comes in the form of a digital product, like an informative ebook (ie PDF file), an audio interview, an informative video, etc.  This kind of giveaway is fantastic for anyone who has a Subscription List with Aweber or GetResponse, especially because these companies will send out the freebies for you.  It is a huge timesaver, and is often worth the $20 fee to maintain.  (Again, remember that this is a chance for you to make a ton of money by emailing your customers over and over.)

Once you have your email list – whether its 20 people or 2,000 – you then begin making additional sales right away.  BUT, if you don’t go with a Company like Aweber or GetResponse, then you NEED to make sure you don’t become a Spammer.  Sending out mass emails can make the email companies mark you as Spammers, as can ignoring your readers requests to be removed from your email lists. To avoid these things without a list, read my old article entitled:  How to Send an Email Blast Without Getting Spam’d.

There are plenty of other ways to get email subscribers, but these are just a simple view that can be implemented immediately.

What are your favorite ways to get email subscribers?

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Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 14: Making Money with Your Website (Part 2)

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In the last BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Make Money With Your Website (Part 1), I discussed two ways that you can supplement your income with your business blog.  As promised, here is another tip that anyone can do to make money with their business website.  However, today I am only going to focus on one main money-making idea because it is such an important and valuable way to make money.  It is your business blog.  With a business blog, you are basically getting free advertising (for really only the cost of your time to write an article), you are creating a relationship with your customers (whether you know it or not), and you can build a community that will only help your business in the business world.  Here’s why the Business Website Blog is so important:

Blogging: If you haven’t noticed lately, one of the biggest trends going on in businesses today is blogging.  It seems like anyone and everyone has a blog, and even an eBook.  There’s a reason for that.  (In fact, there are multiple reasons for that.)  It’s one of the cheapest ways to advertise and to build lasting relationships with your customers – and since you’ll want to save money on advertising…

Having said that, here are some of the most profitable reasons to add a blog to your website:

  1. Blogging is the Sharing of Free Information AND a Person/Company’s Personality: I don’t care what anyone says – Companies have personalities.Maybe that personality is to be “a Big Bad Corporation” or maybe “an Environmentally-Friendly Non-Profit.”  Either way, there is a mission involved and a way that company has of sharing information.  Blogging is the best way for any person or company to share their personality and information, while also educating a customer about the products they sell.  It doesn’t necessarily matter what information you share or how you share it (i.e. words, podcasts, videos, etc.), so long as you share who YOU and your Company are in the process.
  2. Constant Blog Updates Lead to Lots of Traffic: New blog information should be added on average of once a week or more, which means the website is constantly changing.  Since the website and blog are constantly changing, people have a reason to return to the website again and again, which reminds people that there are products to buy.  Constant visits increase the likelihood of “Impulse Purchases, which obviously helps the company’s bottom line.  (On the other hand, websites without blogs are only visited when people are looking for something in particular to buy, which can end up being “rarely.”)
  3. Lots of Traffic Leads to Popularity and New Customers: The more often people visit your blog, the more popular your site will become.  The more popular your site, the higher your website will rank in a Search Engine’s Ranking List.  That means when a customer searches for your product, you have a better chance of being the website that Google or Yahoo! recommends.  The end result is that new customers will begin to visit your website as well, recommended both by your current customers, and the Search Engines.  And thus…
  4. New Customers Leads to New Additional Sales.
  5. Finally, Customers Will Keep Coming Back: As crazy as this might sound, people want to buy from people they know and feel comfortable with.  Even if they don’t buy from your website every time they visit, every blog you post cements you as an “Expert” in their mind, and someone they “just like.”  Thus, they will come to you first when they need advice regarding your industry or when they need your products.  Every blog – whether you make money right away or later – will lead to building customer relations and eventual sales.

Thus, if you haven’t started a business blog, you really need to consider it.  Especially because a blog is the best way to bring traffic to your site again and again, and it will help you make even more money later on.

Come back next week as I talk a bit more about adding Google Adsense to your blog, and how to use it correctly.

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Quick Note: In the month of September, I will be doing a very intense 30-day online workshop on How to Turn Anyone’s Business Blog into a Money-Making Blog. The intent is to teach people how to supplement their income no matter their industry. The cost is $20 for the online workshop, and everyone who joins will receive a $20 gift certificate to Elance.com so that they can hire help for any aspect of their business or website development.

If you would like to know more, you can click the “Workshop” tab above, or Click Here.

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The 10 Customer Service Rules that All “Big Businesses” Utilize

You may be wondering, “E.T. Barton is a bookkeeper and a researcher.  What the heck could she possibly know about customer service?  What qualifies her to teach a lesson like this one?  She’s ‘Back Office’ – NOT Retail.” 

Picture by thadz

SignTo be quite honest…I rock at customer service.  I mean, I seriously kick butt.  But that is not actually what qualifies me as a customer service expert.  What qualifies me is the fact that one of my very first jobs – back when I was in high school – was as a cashier at Carls Jr.  From there, I moved onto Cocos, Sears, JCPenneys, and eventually T.K. Maxx in Ireland.  (Yes, the T.K. is correct).  All of those companies had customer service training programs and many of them had “Secret Shoppers” to verify that service was up to company standards.  While at Carls Jr AND Sears, I happened to be hit by a “Secret Shopper” on at least five occasions and…as you can probably guess…I kicked butt.  I literally got 93% my first secret shop, and then 100% after that.  I got 100% on a Sunday Secret Shop at Sears (our busiest day of the week at the time) where I sold shoes on commission (and I happened to be the highest paid commission associate in my department).  I love the customer service experience, and quite frankly, it is one of the things I miss most by being a back office associate and an independent business owner…you just don’t get to serve the same type of customer service. 

A few years after working at T.K. Maxx, and intrigued by the Secret Shopping Experience, I became a Secret Shopper.  For approximately two years, I learned the Exact Scripts that fast food chains, restaurants, colleges, and even banks teach their employees in order to ensure the perfect customer service experience for their clientele – and to make sure that sales happened.  Big Businesses create these intense customer service training programs for one reason and one reason only: 

Customer Service = Sales. 

Bad Customer Service = Bad Sales. 

Excellent Customer Service = Sales Again and Again and Again as Customers Return For More. 

Good customer service is like being a shepherd with a flock of sheep…the Customer Service Rep must lead the customers to their ideal product(s) like a shepherd leading sheep to water.

Today, I’m going to share the basics that “Big Businesses” are using to create the ultimate customer service retail experience.  The following 10 Steps helps a Company’s Sales Person create a relationship with a customer from the moment they step in the door to the moment they leave.  That relationship will encourage sales more than anything else the store will have to offer – even more than the product itself.  (In fact, read this funny story about the most interesting customer service experience I ever received in order to get a better understanding of this concept entitled, How About Some Illegal Drugs With That Purchase?)

If you read nothing else on this website, bookmark this article.  You’d be amazed when you realize how employees should be treating customers (like you) and how they actually treat customers.  Once you know how Employees at Big Businesses are supposed to behave, you’ll want Excellent Customer Service everywhere you go.

To make things a bit simpler, I’m going to call Customer Service Reps “CSRs” from here on out.

The “Big Business” Basics of Customer Service: 

  1. HandshakeThe Meet and Greet:  In every customer service experience I’ve ever encountered, there is always a “Meet and Greet” time period that is mandated by big companies.  For retail departments like Sears and JCPenneys, a CSR is supposed to greet a customer within THREE MINUTES of strolling into a department.  At fast food drive-ins, it is within ONE MINUTE.  At banks, it’s supposed to be as soon as that door opens, or the customer gets into line.  It is always a good idea to greet a customer ASAP, even if the CSR is busy with another customer.  The greeting could be as simple as “deliberate eye contact” and a nod, but it is better to verbally speak by saying something like, “Hello – my name is…I’m with someone right now, but I will be with you in just a moment.”  (Especially a good idea if the CSR is on the phone.) This type of greeting is often enough to placate even the most demanding of customers.  If you have a grouchy old lady with a bad hip and arthritis demanding service now, she will often be more than happy to wait as long as she knows when she will be served. 
  2. The Inquiry:  After eye contact and/or a verbal greeting, a CSR needs to follow up with the basic inquiry:  “How may I help you today?”  If this question is never asked and a customer is left alone to “find” what they are looking for, they will most likely NOT find it, and they will leave frustrated.  Customers always want “easy shopping” and if a CSR does not offer to make their experience “easy”, they’re out of there.  Give them the opportunity to tell you what they need by simply asking. 
  3. Deliver the Product – NEVER Leave Them to Their Own Devices:  Once the inquiry has been made, it is very important to deliver the product to the customer.  Again, the goal is “EASY shopping,” NOT “Good-Luck-With-That Shopping.”   That means, if you are in a retail business, the CSR should LEAD the customer over to the product, pick it up and hand it to them.  In restaurants, food should be delivered in a timely manner.  In the service industry, a person’s word is their bond; a CSR should live up to whatever promises they make to the customers (within reason, of course).  After all, nothing frustrates a shopper as much as being told, “It’s on Aisle 5”, but then not being able to find that item amongst the multitude of other items in Aisle 5 – or having a restaurant hostess never come back with a drink order “because they thought the waitress delivered it.”  (Am I bitter?  Yes.)  Customers will often assume “It’s sold out” if they don’t see it (or they have been forgotten in the case of the restaurant), and they may or may not ask for further assistance.  By accompanying the customer to a product’s location and/or delivering a product, a CSR has the chance to make sure that sale goes through as it’s supposed to (or “check in the back” if the shelves are empty).   
  4. Ask if They Need Further Assistance:  More often than not, a shopper is looking for ONE specific item, and they will “browse” after they find their item…BUT, it never hurts to ask.  It’s just as common to have a  customer ask for something else once their first need is met.  By simply saying, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”, the CSR increases the odds of a higher final tally on the receipt, while also really pleasing their customer. 
  5. historical shoesSuggest a Complementary Product:  In any business, it is always a good idea to “Suggestive Sell” additional products, especially if the customer says, “I don’t need anything else.”  At Carls Jr., we were encouraged to ask, “Would you like fries with that?” for every meal that did not have fries.  At the Sears shoe department, we were instructed to bring out “at least three pairs of shoes” that were similar in style to the shoe being asked for.  (That way, if the customer did not like the first style / price / fit / etc., they had other options.)  In more than 75% of MY Suggestive Selling cases, I sold the additional product as well as the original product (which is why I was the # 1 Shoe Sales Associate).  It’s the Suggestive Selling that can really help a company’s bottom line, and make a customer happy.  The key, however, is to Give the Customer a Visual Suggestion of a Complementary Product.  At Sears, the customer was able to See AND Touch the additional shoes.  At Carls Jr, saying “Would you like Fries with that (or cookies, or soda)?” instead of “Would you like anything else with that?” gave the customer a mental image of the product, which led them to imagine the food in “their mind’s eye” (i.e. how it would taste).  By giving them that stimulus, whether actual or mental, the CSR stimulates a bigger sale.  
  6. Leave Them to Their Own Devices: After a customer has found what they are looking for, the CSR should back off.  Give the customer time to “browse” and “let their eye buy” more products.  Saying something as simple as – “Okay then…I’ll be right over there if you need anything else.  Again, my name is…just give me a holler” – takes the “buy more stuff” pressure off of a customer (which we all know is the goal) and allows them to relax and shop in peace.  The easier and more peaceful a shopping experience, the more likely the customer is to return to the store soon.  Plus, nobody likes feeling as if “Security” is following them around to make sure they don’t steal something.  Backing off shows a customer that they are trusted. 
  7. Check Back Periodically: Again, another important aspect of customer service.  Checking back within a certain time frame reminds the customer that they are cared about, and that a CSR is at their beck and call should they need it.  Think of it like a waitress in a restaurant.  How annoying is it to get your steak and fries, but there is no steak sauce or ketchup on the table?  Or how about when you’re ready to be “rung up” and the cashier is busy helping someone else.  By not checking back periodically, you deliver the message that the CSR got what they wanted from the customer – presumably a sale – and now they’re done with them.  So again, checking back reminds the customer that they are important every moment that they are in that store.  
  8. Touchscreen ComputerAsk For the Sale:  It’s amazing how many people never ask for the sale.  A commissioned CSR NEVER makes that mistake.  They know that if they don’t ask for the sale, the customer will wander off and find someone else to help them, or put the product back and walk out of the store.  By simply saying, “Can I ring that up for you?”, a CSR again announces that they are at a customer’s beck and call, and they get the chance to make the sale before the customer talks themselves out of it.  In the car industry, car salesmen know that once a customer walks off that lot, they probably won’t see them again (which is why they try so hard to make a great deal before the customer leaves).  Ask for the sale and you increase the chance of actually making it. 
  9. Suggestive Sell Yet Again:  Once a CSR is ringing up a purchase, they have a chance to see what products the customer is buying and suggest complementary products to a different item.  It’s that last minute, “Oh yeah, I should get that too while I’m here,” which can really be successful at increasing every sale.  That’s why the magazines and candy companies pay so much to be at the cash register – because they KNOW someone will think, “I should get that too,” right before they ring up the sale.  
  10. Happy BallThank Them For Their Patronage:  There is a restaurant I’ve been going to for fifteen years (one of my favorite restaurants of all time), and the manager has always said the same thing in all that time.  He says, “See you tomorrow,”…as if I am really coming back tomorrow, and as if he can’t wait to see me.  He even said it to me when I was just an obnoxious teenager.  I know he says it to everyone, but it still makes me feel important that he takes the time and makes sure he says it to me every time I go there (which is a lot).  This is the most important step of making a customer want to come back…common courtesy and the feeling like they matter to that business.  Too many CSRs never say, “Thank you.  Have a nice Day.  I hope I see you again soon.”  Instead, they move onto helping the next customer, inadvertently dismissing the customer standing in front of them.  My rule of thumb is this:  A friendly “Farewell” transfers good feelings from one person to another.  Why wouldn’t you want your customer to leave feeling good?  No matter what, make sure that customer leaves with a smile, and they will return. 

And there you have them.  The 10 Rules of Customer Service that the Big Businesses use.  If you want your customers to return again and again, you need to implement as many of them as possible.  Period.

Now go be a shepherd and lead your customers to their ideal product.

Paint a Target on Your Customers

In BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP #4: Analyze Your Business Location, I discussed the fact that many businesses make the mistake of choosing a bad retail location because they don’t analyze the location in relationship to their competitors.  In actuality, proximity to competitors is merely one reason why a business location can fail.  Another common reason is failure to identify the customers in that location’s area.  If you don’t know who your customers are and where they are located, your business can go down in flames at any point of a business’s life.

In other words – if you know WHO your customers are and WHERE they live or work, you have a better chance of marketing directly to them, and thus attracting them to your business.  Further, since a large majority of businesses attract customers from a 10-mile radius around their business, it helps to know who is in YOUR 10-mile radius. So, to figure out who your customers are, paint a target on them.

To Paint a Target on Your Customers:

Whenever I analyze a business’s location in relation to its customer base, I use MapPoint.  It’s the perfect program for painting a target on your customers because its a Mapping Program merged with a demographic program.  The demographics are so detailed, you can choose a single census tract and find out how many people and households are in that area, how old those people are, how much they spend on various products…even how many use the internet.  It’s that defined.

Now before you look it up and see how expensive it is, I am NOT recommending that you buy the program, unless you find that it really helps your business.  I’m involved in the Research Industry, so I buy every version each year that it comes out.  In actuality, you can download the “Free Trial” and use it for free for 60 days, and then uninstall the program when you’re done with it.  My recommendation is that you check it out and play with it – see what it can do for you – get the information you need to make your business more successful, and then stop using it.  You can download the free trial here.

(By the way, I make NO MONEY on this link whatsoever.  I just believe in the product, and I know what it can do, which is why I recommend it.)

Thus, while you’re checking it out, here is a list of things that MapPoint can do to help any business paint a target on their clients:

  1. MapPoint has an incredibly easy demographic feature.  You can choose up to 16 different demographic points at once – like population, income, household size, and age – and  then instantly have MapPoint map out those demographics by state, county, city, MSA, zip code, or even Census tract.
  2. You can create a shaded map that will show you the various areas by any single demographic you choose – like number of businesses per zip code, how many teenagers in a particular census tract, or household shopping patterns for any city in the United States.
  3. Once you have your demographics selected and mapped, you can create a radius of any number of miles around any address and then instantly export those demographic numbers to an Excel Sheet.  With the numbers in Excel, you can manipulate your data to get a clearer snapshot of the type of customers you may have in or around your preselected location.
  4. You can readjust your chosen radii to another location, to encompass a larger area, or even create a second radius, and then re-export numbers for the new area into another Excel Sheet.  By simply copying and pasting those new numbers into the first Excel sheet, and repeating for any other locations or radii, you can have an instant comparison of multiple locations and see which areas might have your ideal clientele.
  5. You can have MapPoint map out a wide variety of your competitors.  That map will not only list out a fairly accurate number of competitors within a preselected distance from your business, but it will also give you the exact distance of that business from yours, as well as their address and phone number.
  6. You can IMPORT data from an Excel Sheet, and thus map out multiple addresses at once.  This is an ideal tool for anyone who would like to see where the customers they have on their mailing lists are actually located.
  7. There is a feature in MapPoint that shows how much money households spend on various products like electronics, books, food, and so on.   This information can also be narrowed down to a particular radius and census tract, thus allowing you to get a better picture of how much you money people in your area spend in a year on your products.
  8. Plus, on top of all that, MapPoint offers a GPS tool, and can create driving directions based on shortest distances, preselected locations, and fastest routes.  It can also calculate the cost of gas it might take for you to visit those locations.

How to Make These Features Work for You:

While some of this may seem like a lot of technical jargon, the data described above can help you figure out the following for your business:

  1. Where is the largest concentration of your customers?
  2. Where are your more affluent customers located?
  3. This can help you narrow down your advertising campaign to particular areas that have the clients you want.
  4. This can show you what type of customer is actually located closest to your business, thus helping you redirect your marketing campaign to attract those customers instead of the customers you think you should have.
  5. This can help you determine what might be your ideal price points based on the income of the people in your area and how much they spend on particular items.
  6. It’s the perfect tool when shopping for a new business location since it will show you where the highest concentration of your ideal customers are actually located.

So again – check out the free trial, play with it, get the information you need, and then buy it only if you love it.

(If you do decide you like it, Newegg.com offers a $25 discount on the downloadable version of Microsoft MapPoint 2010.)