60% Co-op Reimbursement – Now What?

The New Year always brings about big changes and challenges, and this year is no different, especially with DISH’s co-op reimbursement percentage change from 80% to 60% already in place. Don’t panic! We’ve got the team to guide you with a few tips to  change your advertising focus from volume to value.

When thinking about your advertising budget, quality, not quantity, is what you’re looking for. Take a deep breath and really think about where you spend your advertising dollars: Which mediums are working for you and which ones aren’t? Are you doing any advertising just because it’s inexpensive, even though it may be ineffective? Now is the time to scrutinize your marketing plan, eliminate the part of the plan that is not working, and get creative to spend your advertising budget in the areas where it’s the most effective.

Review your Marketing Plan

When analyzing your current advertising budget, you can place your initiatives in one of two categories: those you spend money on and those that make your business money. If the majority of your leads are coming from one or two advertising tactics, but you have three or four total, then you need to shift your money to the mediums where you’re actually getting a return on your investment. Stop spending in the areas where you are not. Just because your out-of-pocket expense per initiative is going to increase doesn’t mean that your total budget has to.

Cut the Fat

Once you have identified the mediums that aren’t bringing in quality leads, you need to pull those ads as soon as possible. If you have gotten in the habit of advertising in ways that aren’t the most effective, make it your resolution to focus the money on other avenues that can make your business better. Even if the advertising is cheap, it’s still money wasted if it’s not bringing in customers and it is money better spent elsewhere. Now that you’ll be responsible for paying 40% of the total cost on any advertising initiative, you really need to focus on getting the best value for that money and only advertise where you are seeing results.
Get Creative
With a higher investment for advertising on your end, you want to look for every value-add opportunity you can. See if your radio station or newspaper will give you a better rate if you commit to a larger number of advertisements. Is there a discount for running on certain days of the week? Many newspapers will include a web ad at no additional charge when you buy a print ad. It’s ok to be shameless in asking your vendors for discounts or bundles– the worst they can do is say no, right? Don’t forget to look into opportunities for free advertising, too. Get those social media pages in shape, start a blog, or send out a newsletter to current and prospective customers. You could even try bartering or trading advertising. Ask a popular local business if you can hang a banner in their store or place some business cards at the counter in exchange for the same at your business. Networking and word of mouth will always remain powerful advertising tools.
It’s certainly going to be an adjustment switching over to a lower reimbursement percentage, but if you sit down and take the time to analyze your business’s marketing plan and think outside the box a little, you can make it work without breaking your advertising budget.

The Top Industry Resources You Should Be Reading….

Hey, it’s Keith coming to you this week from the Training Department.  I’ve been involved in this business for over 12 years now and I’m amazed at just how dynamic the Consumer Electronics, Satellite Video, and Broadband industries are.  The rate at which things change, even from week-to-week, can be downright mind-boggling.  I’m convinced it’s more important than ever to stay up-to-date with the latest industry news and information.  I’d like to share with you some online resources that I use as Training Manager to help me stay on top of it all.

What I’ve done is taken DOW’s six core sales verticals and provided a news resource for each one.  I realize your business may not be involved in more than a couple of these, but the lines between industries are getting more and more blurry every year.  Nevertheless, chances are good that another industry ‘crosses’ over into yours.  These industry news sites have proven helpful:

  • Satellite TV: The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association (SBCA) puts together a piece through Smart Brief that includes the latest news from the Satellite and Telecommunications industries.  Stories on DISH Network and other industry movers-and-shakers are gathered together in one place to help you keep up-to-date on what’s going on.  Free email sign-up option available. http://www.smartbrief.com/news/sbca
  • Consumer Electronics: This Week in Consumer Electronics (TWICE) is part of the NewBay Media group which produces over 40 publications and show dailies, 50 websites, 30 daily and weekly E-Newsletters, 3 expos and over 50 custom publishing efforts annually.  TWICE delivers a daily eNews piece that brings the top news stories in the world of CE right to your Inbox.  This industry is constantly changing and TWICE will allow you to stay informed.  Daily and weekly news delivery options also available.  Free email sign-up. http://www.twice.com/news
  • Broadband/Internet: A good website for Broadband related news is FierceTelecom. FierceTelecom is the first place industry insiders turn to find out what’s shaping and revolutionizing the wireless landscape.  In addition to Broadband news, they have sister websites that provide news on other industries that DOW touches.  Free email sign-up option available.  http://www.fiercetelecom.com/news
  • 12 Volt/Mobile Electronics: Considered by some to be a leading online site, 12voltnews.com is the 12 Volt Industry’s source for the latest news. The people, companies, events and products of this dynamic industry is showcased on this exciting site.  Free weekly newsletter by email available.  http://www.12voltnews.com
  • VoIP (For Business): If business-related VoIP is your cup of tea, then VoIP-NEWS is right up your alley.  VoIP NEWS covers all aspects of the VoIP and Internet Telephony industries and provides original content covering news, events and information.  Free email sign-up option available.  http://www.voip-news.com
  • CCTV/Video Surveillance: Security Info Watch has you covered if you’re interested in the CCTV/Video Surveillance industry.  In addition to the video segment, this site has information on other areas of this ever-growing business.  Free email sign-up option available.  http://www.securityinfowatch.com/products/video-surveillance

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant is change,” and our businesses are not immune from this.  Staying on top of industry news and trends will enable your company to adapt and remain competitive.  I encourage you to check out the news from other industries that you don’t currently touch.  You just may find a new revenue stream that you weren’t already tapped in to.

Is there a different website that you find helpful?  If so, leave us a comment and share your favorite site(s).

Keeping Up with Your Tracking

Tracking the success of a marketing campaign can be, hands down, the easiest portion of your initiative to neglect.  After the all the planning, strategy and execution, it’s a sigh of relief to have everything out the door and off your plate.  And, add in the day-to-day duties of your job, customers, phone calls, vendors and more customers, and, well, who has time to do tracking?

If you don’t, you should make time.

Following your initiative’s foot print is the best way to see where your clientele is coming from so you know where to send your message, or how to spend your advertising dollars.  From the most basic to the most advanced, here are a few ways to make tracking a part of your everyday business model and why this information is important to you.

No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

Asking all your new customers or clients, ‘How did you hear about us?’ should be mandatory, no questions asked.  I know it sounds silly, but you can easily integrate this into everyday business activities.  Make a script and a tally sheet for yourself and employees when answering the phones.  If the person calling is a first time customer, simply slip the question in when you are asking for their contact information and note the answer on your tally sheet under the appropriate choice.

Another way to add it in is to make it the required first step in your sales transaction or website questionnaire.  Since the answer is required, and your new, hot lead cannot go on to the next step without answering, you ensure that you get the tracking information you need on a regular basis.  And making it a part of your sales process creates an easy flow and transition, without any additional hassle.

Technology and Tracking

For those already tracking their marketing on a regular basis, kudos!  But, here are a couple more advanced ways you may not know about.

Some direct and shared mail companies may offer you the option to purchase a phone number tied directly to that specific marketing piece.  This phone number will only ring through on one line at your business, thus making your tracking fool-proof – the person calling on that specific line has the number from that specific mail piece.  Voila – instant tracking!

Another advanced tracking option is personal URL’s, or PURL’s.  PURL’s are personalized landing pages (like a mini web page), that are unique to each individual on the mailing list.  For example, if I were to receive a mailer with a PURL, mine might be ‘ENarvaez.DowElectronicsDeals.com’, but yours would include your information.  Once you get to the landing page, which is informational, and not an advanced website, there is typically a form to fill out and submit.  The best part is all this information is recorded for you to use – who logged in, what information they submitted, what time they logged in, how many times they visited the site and so on.

Whether you are just starting to get into the nitty gritty of tracking, or you are more advanced, tracking is something no business owner can afford to ignore.  This information leads you to your client base, and shows you what isn’t working for your business.  And, bottom line, if you aren’t seeing a good ROI from your marketing and advertising, its time to switch gears to get your customers in the door.

Social Media + Lead Generation On the Spot!

So you’ve set up some snazzy Facebook and Twitter profiles, but you just aren’t gaining a following. What do you do? Well, as I’ve told you before, social media takes time and patience, but don’t get discouraged– a Twitter star is not made overnight. However, I recently stumbled upon a new iPad app that will help you gain fans and followers and generate some email leads for your mailing lists!

What is it?
It’s called OnSpot Social, and it works by engaging your customers while they are in your showroom (or kiosk or event booth) and getting them to follow your social media pages or provide their email right there on the spot– hence the name. There’s no need for your customer to pull out his smart phone to log into his Facebook app and you don’t have to hope he remembers your twitter handle when he logs on at home later tonight because you have an iPad set up in your showroom where he can simply type in his information and automatically follow you.

How Does it Work?
You simply download the app to your iPad* and configure it for your business with a theme and your company logo. You can choose to allow people to connect to you through Facebook, Twitter, and Email, or any combination of the three. You can even offer a special incentive for those who provide you with an email address or connect to one of your social networks! I like that the user interface is on the simple side. There’s no clutter on the screen to distract your customers, no games to play or websites to visit. People can get in and out quickly allowing the next customer to connect and eliminating the chance for any one person to monopolize your iPad.

*Sorry android users, the app is only on iPads right now. I am told, however, that the developers would consider making an android version if the demand is high enough. I suggest letting them know on twitter @OnSpotSocial 🙂

Is this for me?
OnSpot Social could be a great tool for just about any kind of business, but the integration of tablet computer technology into the lead collection process makes this tool the perfect fit for the consumer electronics and satellite sales industries– your customers will see that you are in tune with the latest technology and they will be excited to join you on the social web. Who doesn’t have a Facebook account, and more importantly, who can resist a touch screen?! Your customers need not be concerned about their privacy, none of their information is stored when they use this app. It also frees up your time so that you can collect contact information from one customer while simultaneously giving your sales pitch to another. This comes in really handy on a high traffic day or if you’re short-handed at your event or kiosk. Those few minutes you used to spend filling out a lead form can now be used for active selling– let your sales people sell and let the app take down leads.

How Much Does It Cost?
The OnSpot Social app is a free download from the App Store, however, the free version of the app is basically just a digital sign. In order to use the features discussed above, you have to choose a subscription plan: $25/week, $125/6 months, or $175 for a year. I know we all love the free stuff, but this is one place where your investment could really pay off. If you break the fee down, the one year plan is less than $15 per month– not a whole lot. If you think of it in terms of cost per lead, even if you retrieve only one lead per month through this app you are still getting a bargain. And I know that a lot of you who participate in events frequently can gather way more than one lead per month on this thing without even trying! Just think about how much your cost per call is on a direct mail campaign or a print ad and you will see that the fee here is pretty minimal. Just make sure that you actually have the app set up in plain sight and that you are directing people to use it. If you don’t, then why bother spending the money?

An additional cost to consider is securing your technology. The website offers iPad enclosures and stands so you don’t have to worry about anyone walking away with your tablet.

The Takeaway
While this is a really great innovation in lead collection, it’s all useless if you don’t take those leads and do something with them. At the very least you should be following up via email, phone, or mail… or better yet, a combination of the three! Make sure that you are adding all of the leads that you collect to your email newsletter recipients (and if you don’t have a newsletter, you should really consider starting one– but that’s another post). Provide fresh and interesting updates to your social networks to keep your new Facebook and twitter followers coming back for more. Remember that these are people who have freely given you their contact information and are now expecting you to get in touch– they are inviting you to sell them something. So take them up on the invitation, get in contact, and show them what you’ve got to offer!

How do you gather leads? How do you use them? Let us know in the comments!

5 Things Your Business Should Be Thinking About

Running a business can get pretty hectic and sometimes we get stuck in our routines because they are comfortable and easy. Here are a few things to get your brains working outside the box that will hopefully show you some positive results!

    1. Marketing Tactics

      Good marketing is a highly important part of your business. It’s simple, if people don’t know who you are and what you are offering, they can’t make a purchase from you. Most of you reading this blog are probably DOW Electronics retailers, and therefore participate in co-op advertising, and that’s great! If the brand that you are selling is willing to offset a portion of your marketing costs in exchange for you following their marketing rules, I say take advantage of it! However, don’t forget that you are allowed to do your own marketing without the assistance of co-op funds. The benefit of incorporating non-funded marketing tactics with your co-op funded initiatives is that you have greater freedom to experiment with your advertising. You can give online ads a try, get your business mentioned on the menu of your favorite sports bar, or sponsor a local baseball team and have your name printed on their jerseys. The beauty is that you are really only restricted by your own creativity. And don’t forget that when you are paying for the advertising, you can include many products that you offer in a single ad– co-op advertising generally doesn’t allow for this, or if they do, the reimbursement will be reduced.Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when marketing your business, just make sure that you aren’t violating any of the business rules of the products that you promote. Sure, you will have to take on the full cost of your marketing initiative, but remember that the name of the game is Return on Investment. You can’t think in simple dollars and cents. A co-op funded technique may cost you less out-of-pocket than advertising that you finance independently, but if you’re not seeing a return on it, was it really worth the money that you did spend? You should always be thinking about your cost per sale!
    2. Your Company Website

      Welcome to the 21st century, people! The internet can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored. When people want to know something, find a business, or comparison shop, they go online. If your business isn’t there, it needs to be. What’s more, it’s not just enough to be online, you have to be active. Consumers shy away from a poorly constructed website that is seldom updated. Make sure that your website is professional, current, and full of useful and relevant information. You should visit your own websites regularly and evaluate whether the website you see is one that you would be impressed by as a consumer, if not, it’s probably time to update. You should be able to find a company who can build you a website for fairly low-cost (ask your friends and colleagues, they will likely have a recommendation), or if you are so inclined you can use services like WordPress to create a website. For those of you who are DISH retailers, there is even a program that offers free and co-op eligible websites! There is no excuse anymore, even small local businesses need to be online.
    3.  Social Media Marketing Think of your social media presence as an extension of your website, only this is where you have two-way communication with your audience. You can let your customers and potential customers know the latest news about your business and they can let you know about their experiences with you. The important thing that a lot of people forget about social media is the social part. Facebook and twitter were not created for you to peddle your goods and services, and their users don’t care to see a new advertisement in their feeds every few moments. With social media, you have to find a balance. Only promote when you have something notable to announce, like a big event or that great new product line that just came in. As a small business, it’s important that people know that your page is run by you, a real person in their own community. Don’t be afraid to comment on local happenings, the weather, or to make a joke– people want to buy from someone they know and trust, not from someone who is constantly pestering them for business. Let people know who you are and what you do, but don’t throw it in their faces. If you’re constantly providing interesting industry information, tips, and helpful commentary, they will make an effort to be a part of your business.Social media is also a good customer service tool. If someone has a good experience with your business, they may leave a “thank you” or “great job” on your page. This works the same way with negative feedback. It’s important that you are proactive and address both the good and the bad. Respond quickly and kindly– thank users who leave positive messages and do what you can to resolve negative experiences. In most cases, resolving issues on your social media pages where all of your current and potential customers can see is actually good for your business. Others will see that you have done everything in your power to correct a mistake and that you were sensitive to the customer’s problem. Often times, you can win back the customer who had a bad experience, and with him, several others who see that you aren’t afraid to admit to a mistake and to fix it. No one is perfect, it’s the way that you operate in a bad situation that sets you apart.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) You may have heard of search engine optimization, or SEO, or you may be wondering what the heck “search engine optimization” is. Basically, it’s a process designed to bring your website higher up in search engine results. SEO incorporates many different elements and there are individuals and companies whose sole purpose is SEO. Though it is a complicated process, there aresome things that you can do to make your website more search engine friendly. As I am not an SEO expert, I will defer to those who know what they are talking about:

 

10 quick SEO tips from smuggecko.com
7 Types of Content to Get Traffic and Links by Paddy Moogan at Distilled
4 Ways SMBs Can Get More From Their SEO by Lisa Barone at Small Business Trends

These are just a few blog posts to help you out and get you more familiar with the SEO monster, you can find endless information by googling SEO or Search Engine Optimization. If you really want to make sure that your website is properly optimized, it may do you some good to hire a professional. There are pros and cons to hiring help, so make sure to do your research first. Google has a great little guide on SEO and what to look for and questions you should be asking when looking to pay to optimize your site– who better to ask than the most popular search engine there is, right?

  1.  Customer Retention

    Last, but certainly not least, we come to customer retention. This is the one that many of us often forget about. Many businesses get so focused on generating leads and bringing in new sales that they forget about the sales they’ve already made. It is important to bring in new customers, but it’s even more important to keep them and maintain their loyalty after the initial sale. The next time a loyal customer needs something that you offer, they’re going to look to you first and not the competition.Maintaining a current customer is much cheaper and takes much less effort than does selling to a new one. Often times all it takes is a few simple gestures to show that the customer is important to you and that you appreciate their business. A great way to build relationships with your customers is to stay in touch. After the initial sale, send them a thank-you card or give a small gift with purchase. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just a little something extra to add that personal touch that the other guy doesn’t offer. Then, make sure to follow up after the sale. Add the customer to a mailing list to let them know when you’re having a big sale or offer a customer loyalty discount. Send a little reminder to let them know to send in a rebate or cancel services after the promotional period is up.Think about what keeps you coming back to a business and find a way to incorporate that tactic into your business plan. Why spend all of that time, effort, and money to get one sale when you can turn one sale into many over the years? I can’t say it enough, as a business owner you want the greatest possible return on your investment– so why not get 3 or 4 sales for the price of one?

    Here are a few ideas from Aaron Lee on how to reward your customers.

What has worked in your experience? Tell us below!