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3 Things Taylor Swift Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Reputation Management

Taylor Swift makes certain not one of her fans feels like a number, which is part of why she has more fans than she could possibly count.

Joey Coleman

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How do you get customers to notice the release of a new product? If you’re Taylor Swift, you delete your social media history and then drop a video of yourself in a $10 million diamond bath. Although it’s a bit unorthodox, her approach worked.

The “Look What You Made Me Do” video racked up more than 43 million views in 24 hours, according to Variety – crushing the record for views of a debut video. By the time it became available through streaming services, Swift’s Reputation album had already spent three weeks in the Billboard 200’s No. 1 spot.

What made Swift’s album release so massive? She knows her fan base well enough to create exactly the type of hype her millions of followers respond to best. Brands can follow suit by looking for opportunities to get the attention of their own fans.

Related: The Importance Of Business Reputation

Swift’s fans follow her religiously on Instagram, but if, say, General Electric deleted its Instagram posts, few people would notice and even fewer would care. Entrepreneurs should first find out where their customers are and what they care about in order to figure out the best way to get them to take notice.

What’s the customer experience ‘end game’?

taylor-swift-end-gameCustomers want to feel like they matter, but all too often, they end up feeling like little more than a number. This feeling isn’t unjustified. What’s the first thing the typical business does when it gets a new customer? It assigns that new customer an account number.

Swift differs from a typical business by looking at her customers as unique individuals, even though her millions of fans far exceed the number of customers of a typical business. Swift broadcasts general information to all her followers, of course, but she also goes out of her way on an almost daily basis to engage at an individual level with at least some of her fans.

In a world where the bar for the customer experience is so low that even the most skilled limbo dancer couldn’t slide beneath it, the way businesses interact with customers is more important than ever. Businesses often use size to justify their lack of a positive customer experience.

While a start-up can offer customers a personalised interaction at the beginning, many businesses find it difficult to keep individualised attention and care a priority as they start to add more customers and hire more employees. There are ways to keep the focus on customers’ experiences, though, and Swift’s success in doing this at scale offers three great lessons:

1. Stay true to the “customer comes first” philosophy

Never forget that a company’s success grows directly from the relationship with its “fans.” Swift is under no false illusions. The second her fans decide to stop listening to her music, her career is over. This is why she goes out of her way to cultivate her relationship with her fans on a daily basis.

Her Tumblr page is a prime example of how she takes fan engagement seriously, and she uses the platform to interact with fans on a regular basis by following their pages, commenting on conversations and even sending flowers to fans who need a pick-me-up.

The same must be true of every employee in a company. If the people who come into contact with customers don’t understand and share the enthusiasm for creating a remarkable customer experience, the “customer comes first” philosophy isn’t being put into practice on the front lines.

Related: Richard Branson on Building a Strong Reputation

Never forget that customers are a brand’s fans, and they keep companies in business. Every employee plays a role in making customers feel special and appreciated.

2. Forget the old way of doing things

ticketmasters-verified-fan-programmeFor her most recent concert tour, Swift announced a change in how ticket purchasing will work. Rather than follow the traditional “first come, first served” model – which invites bots to snatch up tickets before actual people can purchase them – Swift’s fans will be allowed to compete for a ranking through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan programme.

In this model, if a fan exhibits increased engagement by signing up for Swift’s newsletter and sharing about her on social media, the fan is able to purchase better tickets to the concert.

Like Swift, constantly be on the lookout for fun and engaging ways to let customers know that their business is valuable. This will take creativity and may require extra effort, but the response from customers will be worth it.

3. Reward raving fans

Many entrepreneurs worry that if they can’t create a remarkable experience for every customer, it would be unfair to do so for any customer. This means that no customer ends up having a remarkable experience.

Related: How Not to Commit Reputation Suicide

Swift refuses to get tied up in such limited thinking. In 2014, she undertook a project to study the social media accounts of a few of her “superfans,” learning what they liked, who they were friends with, where they worked and other personal details.

Swift then went shopping for Christmas (or “Swiftmas,” as it came to be called) gifts for those fans. These exceptional personalised gifts, sent to only a few dozen fans, were seen by the rest of her fan base as an incredible act of kindness. That made them love her even more, even though they weren’t direct beneficiaries of this special treatment.

Showering your best customers with extra love isn’t unfair to the rest. Set the bar for customer experience high across the board, but do something extra special for your most loyal fans. They deserve it, after all, and there’s no better way to convince a customer “fan” base that they really are more than just a number.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Joey Coleman is a speaker who helps organizations retain their best customers. His book, “Never Lose a Customer Again,” helps businesses learn how to turn any sale into a lifelong customer.

Branding

These 6 Online Habits Are Common, But They’re Killing Your Brand’s Credibility

Just because ‘everyone’s doing it’ doesn’t mean your brand should follow suit.

Lucas Miller

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How do you build a loyal customer base? For most modern brands, the answer doesn’t actually lie with authenticity – rather, it depends on building credibility.

According to the Association for Consumer Research, “As a signal of product positioning, the most important characteristic of a brand is its credibility … Credibility affects consumer choices through perceived risk, information costs saved and perceived quality in most categories, even those with only moderate levels of uncertainty.”

Even for relatively low-cost purchases, whether customers perceive a brand as trustworthy – as someone who fulfills their promises – will have a big impact on their buying decisions.

Unfortunately, many brands falter in their credibility-boosting efforts as the result of relatively minor mistakes. The following online habits may not seem like a big deal, but they can easily derail your brand-building efforts.

1. You’re using vague superlatives

Every brand wants to position itself as the best in the business. But, rather than showcase their best work in an online portfolio, many businesses instead choose to use non-specific superlatives like “high-quality,” “best in the business” or “experienced team.”

Media experts have found that such vague superlatives actually crush your credibility, hinting at underlying insecurities about what your business has to offer. Instead, mention specific credibility-boosting examples, such as awards you’ve won or how many years you’ve been in business.

Related: How to Manage Your Personal Brand

2. You haven’t claimed your business on Google

google

Most potential customers (and even many of your returning customers) aren’t going to remember your company’s URL. To find you, they’ll do a search on Google. While your website should come up as part of their search results, many customers will actually look at your Google listing first – and if you haven’t added or claimed your business, you could quickly lose credibility.

Claiming your business helps prove to customers that you have an actual online presence. It gives them a chance to check out reviews and quickly find other essential information. If you don’t claim your business, you send the message that you don’t care about your web presence – and that your website probably won’t help customers solve their problems, either.

3. You’ve neglected the testimonials page on your site

Customer reviews can make or break your ability to attract new business – even for decidedly non-tech-savvy industries like plumbing or lawn care. However, far too many brands let third-party review sites do all the heavy lifting, even though a website without testimonials will have a harder time establishing credibility.

Related: Build Your Brand On Instagram By Avoiding These Common Mistakes

4. You consciously try to use smart-sounding words

A key part of building credibility is proving that you actually know what you’re talking about. This is why so many brands embrace the power of blogging – sharing facts and tips is a great way to showcase your expertise and improve your SEO rankings. The problem comes when blogs and other online content are peppered with “smart” words in an attempt to sound more authoritative.

Words like “deosculation” (another word for kissing) or “laodicean” (which means indifferent) may help you sound more intelligent, but they’ll only confuse your audience. Worse yet, trying to use more complex language makes it much more likely that you’ll make an embarrassing mistake. Keep it simple, and you’ll build your credibility with easy-to-understand language.

5. You’ve failed to humanise your brand

humanise-your-brand

Scams and fake websites are all too common these days, and as a result, many consumers are understandably wary when checking out a new brand for the first time.

Unfortunately, in an effort to save time and money, many smaller businesses use stock photos and a generic “About” page on their site. Such a move may be more convenient, but it illustrates a lack of transparency, and signals to customers that your site could be a scam.

Instead, humanise your business with pictures of the people who actually work there. Personalise the “About” page with unique details about your company’s past. Don’t be afraid to include personal info about your team or pictures of your office. Such additions can go a long way in proving your legitimacy.

Related: 9 Tips For Creating An Awesome Brand

6. You’ve passed on old-fashioned communication

A quality website is a great asset, but it likely won’t answer every question your potential customers might have. While email and chatbots can be helpful, many customers still prefer traditional communication methods – and according to the Harvard Business Review, “74 percent of people who have a bad phone support experience are likely to choose another business the next time they shop for that product or service.”

Including your business’s address and a contact phone number not only gives potential customers more ways to get in touch – it also helps legitimise your company for consumers and Google alike. Even a digital-only brand will gain legitimacy by giving customers a way to talk with a real human being.

As you avoid these negative online habits and take steps to correct them, you’ll make a better impression and build a stronger reputation with potential customers. Even more importantly, you’ll generate the sales growth needed to keep your business moving forward.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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It’s Okay To Promote Yourself – In Fact, It’s Necessary. Here’s How To Do It Better

Here’s what to do if you aren’t a natural marketer.

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If you ever heard the expression “Pride goeth before a fall” or you were ever scolded by a teacher or a parent for “thinking too much of yourself,” chances are promotion of yourself and your business is a challenge for you.

There’s a problem with that: You can’t grow a business if no one knows about you.

“Nice” people don’t brag. “Nice” people don’t boast. “Nice” people don’t talk about their successes, their industry standing, their awards or what they and their company can do to make the prospect’s life that much better. After all, who wants to be seen as arrogant?

One of the worst adages wrongly applied to business is, “Good things come to those who wait.” Ba-humbug!

So you wait for the phone to ring. You wait for that handful of previous customers to tell their friends. You wait for the Magic Business Fairy to come turn your business from “barely-getting-by” into a NASDAQ listing. Ain’t gonna happen.

A young friend started an online clothing store just two months ago. Yesterday, she complained, “I’ve got cute stuff, a great website, a perfect shopping cart, fast shipping. I ran a one-day-only 50 percent off sale, but I didn’t even get one order!” I said, “That’s because you don’t have traffic. Get traffic, then you get sales.”

Traffic, customers, prospects and money come when you promote yourself, not by magic! Start intelligent promoting today.

If you don’t fiercely believe in your company, and share your positive message over and over and over and over again, including your own part in its quality products or service (especially if your business is still mostly you!), your sales will never get any better than they are today.

You have to get out there and shout it from the rooftops!

For example, there are millions of people on social media. If you write a blog or a book that no one is reading, it is not a “lead generator” for your business. If you have a sign and a great location but very little foot traffic, you are not marketing your business. In 2016, an astonishing 787,000 books were published in the USA, most self-published. The average sales? 117 copies in two years!

Related: How Personal Branding Builds Self Awareness

Throwing something into the world and crossing your fingers is not a marketing strategy.

Here are three real, practical, hands-on steps you can and should do today to promote yourself and your business effectively – and fast.

1. Get over it

If you want to have insecurities about whether or not it is proper or right or even holy to be a self-promoter, nurse those worries on your off hours. No fewer than 40 hours a week, pretend like you have the best product or service in the history of the human race … and do your best to live up to what you tout from this day forward.

Fake it ’til you make it, Baby.

2. Ditch whatever isn’t working

The blogs no one is reading? Fugeddaboutit. The big fancy Sale sign in your window? Stick it in the stockroom. Going to all those dull networking breakfasts and handing out your business card? Try a toaster waffle at home next time. Stop doing what isn’t working so you have time to figure out and focus on what will bring in business.

3. Figure it out fast

As Tony Robbins often says, “Success leaves clues.” What are your competitors doing? If you can’t afford their ad budget, then what similar thing could you do to divert just a small percentage of their revenue into your cash register?

No clue? Could you hire a marketing consultant to give you a hand – even for just a few hours? Make sure the person you hire has actually helped at least two other people achieve what you want to achieve! When new speakers or authors hire me to help them get more speeches or sell more books, I literally force them to check out my long list of successful clients so they know I can do what I am promising. Check the person out before you pay them (especially “social media experts”!) When you get their good advice…take it! Most people don’t take the advice they get…and pay for. This is what keeps psychologists and diet book authors in business.

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

Not the type to do corporate espionage or won’t hire a consultant? Read books! All the knowledge in the world is there. I strongly recommend The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building, of course, but there are many other niche books on everything from Facebook marketing (so people actually read your blogs!) to networking (my author-client Judy Robinett wrote How to Be a Power Connector) to podcasting (Stephen Woessner’s Profitable Podcasting is the best I’ve seen so far). Decide what you want to do, what you can do easily and what matches your customer’s way of finding out about businesses like yours, learn how to do it, and begin. It’s really that simple.

If what you’re doing now isn’t working, educate yourself so you can do it right and get the best results.

It’s OK that you can’t afford to do everything, or don’t have time, the interest or the talent. Do what you like, check if it is working, and do more of it. Or hire people to show you the best way to achieve it, or even hire someone to do it for you. There have never been so many great, easy ways to promote a business or a person! A little belt-tightening pain now could mean a huge payoff later.

Bonus step

Still feeling a little shy about self-promotion? Imagine that your business is your beloved child. You want your child to get into Harvard, right? Or to star in the school talent show? Or to ace the MCATs? Even though for most small businesses, the owner is the business, suspend your enmeshment long enough to imagine your business as separate from you. Imagine that it is someone you deeply care about and want to help. It’s no longer about vanity or ego. It’s about love and faith and all that good stuff. After all, whatever your business does, it’s purpose is to help the world in some way, to solve a problem your customers want solved.

To keep up your spirits, start collecting testimonials today. Ask for Yelp or Amazon or OpenTable reviews, collect written testimonials, or video tape happy customers telling you how much they love your business. When you’re feeling a little low, watch them or re-read them and boost yourself up again. You’re doing good in the world. You deserve to be paid for it. You deserve to share those testimonials (with permission, when appropriate) with your prospects. You earned them!

P.T. Barnum once said, “Fortune always favours the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.” You don’t have to become P.T. Barnum, although he made a heck of a lot of money by being a relentless promoter. You just have to stop doing what isn’t working, summon your courage and try new things.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

Move Your Brand Forward With Eye-Catching Vehicle Wraps

The Sign Africa Expo is Africa’s largest dedicated print and signage exhibition. Covering 13,000sqm and with the objective of attracting 6,000+ visitors, Sign Africa provides an ideal platform for visitors to investigate available business ventures, innovative products, technology, applications and education programmes for the signage and display industries in the sub-Saharan region. Entrance is free and the event is co-located with FESPA Africa, Africa Print and Africa LED and will take place from 12-14 September 2018 at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

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Business owners are constantly seeking ways to get their brands noticed. And with all the gigantic billboards, street pole advertisements and other media vying for consumers’ attention, it’s difficult to stand out. Enter vehicle wrapping, which is an effective promotional tool as it’s cost-effective, impactful and long-lasting.

‘Car branding will transform your vehicle or fleet into mobile billboards. Used for short-term promotions or long-term exposure, it is one of the more cost-effective advertising methods available. It is also a great option for personalisation or to improve the appearance of your vehicle,’ said said Manny De Souza from Wrap Vehicles.

Besides cost-effective general wraps for corporate fleets, custom vehicle wrapping offers special effects that create Instagram-worthy wraps that get brands noticed. Different textures such as chrome, wood grain, carbon fibre and a variety of metallic effects, glitter, ultra matte finishes and ‘sandpaper-like’ non-slip surface finishes are also available. One can also create pearlescent effects and even velvet, while colour changing vinyls also provide really unique wraps.

Vehicle graphics can also be tailor-made to suit any budget, allowing for options like partial wraps or small decals on elements of the transport such as the doors. A professionally installed wrap should last between five to seven years if properly maintained by regularly washing the vehicle. Many reputable wrapping companies offer warrantees on the wrap’s longevity.

Related: The Psychology of Colour in Marketing and Branding

Wraps also increase a vehicle’s value by protecting it from nicks and scratches. Then there’s the benefit of the conspicuous branding possibly making your vehicle less appealing to criminals.

Of course, you’ll have to ensure that you and your fleet drivers obey the rules of the road as reckless driving can damage your brand.

You can see vehicle wrapping solutions and business opportunities at the FESPA Africa and Sign Africa Expo at Gallagher Convention Centre from 12-14 September 2018.

Speed Wrap Challenge

An expo highlight is the Speed Wrap Challenge, a thrilling, live wrapping competition. Come along and watch experts compete against the clock for the title of champion. Vehicle wrapping companies can also enter their best wrappers. The challenge will take place on all three days of the expo. The first round will be at 10am and the final round will take place on Friday 14 September. For more information, visit: www.signafricaexpo.com/entrepreneur1.

sign-africa-fespa

The featured image is credited to Wrap Vehicles.

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