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Starbucks adds social media to gift card program for extra edge

March 30, 2011

Sure, Starbucks brews up good coffee. But they’re also brimming with innovative ideas that build brand loyalty and wide customer appeal. The coffee company serves up a strong brand presence, even stronger customer loyalty, and an amazing retail experience that carries well after customers leave the store with their morning brew. Now Starbucks is increasing their social media presence by expanding their gift card program and integrating the cards with social media and mobile marketing strategies.

The program builds on their current gift card program, but makes it even easier to purchase and send the cards. Of course, finding a location is usually never an issue. But perhaps the store has already closed for the day or you just can’t pull yourself away from work. The solution is fast,  convenient and highly visible for Starbucks. Just go online from your computer or phone, send an email and the card is delivered. If you don’t have an email address, you can post a gift card to a friend’s Facebook wall.

The program is ideal for restaurants and retailers who want to build referrals and increase online sales. As a marketing tool, it allows businesses to promote last-minute gift ideas for the holidays, send convenient business gifts and maintain current customer relationships with referral incentives. Starbucks partners with CashStar for their expertise and to minimize fraud, but there are many companies that offer these services or you can create a program internally.

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Generating Media Coverage for Your Small Business

March 23, 2011

Ever read your favorite trade journal or newspaper over breakfast and see your competitor’s name staring back at you in one of the articles? Why is it that some businesses get press and others don’t? One of the best ways to attract new business is to be seen as an expert in your field of expertise. But how do you go about getting quoted in articles and gaining media coverage for your firm?

You may have a great story to tell, but have you considered your approach to the media? Just like building your customer base, success with the media requires building relationships, too. Smart companies know what the media need, just as they do with their customers. Patrick Garmoe of Copyblogger has posted 109 Ways to Make Your Business Irresistible to Media. Advice starts with building relationships months in advance of pitching story ideas. Get to know what types of stories reporters usually cover and find out how you can help make their jobs easier by providing them with useful information. Consider your pitch so that it focuses on what their readers will find most interesting. This is not the time to sell your business, but to sell a newsworthy idea. Garmoe gives plenty of examples for interesting pitch ideas. Timing is crucial, so plan your media well in advance and know the media’s deadlines. When you do get coverage, be sure to post a link to the article and any videos on your website. And be gracious — send a thank-you note after the interview. It’s a wise list of tips, and a good place to start when planning your media strategy.

For more ideas to grow your business and your profits, be sure to sign up for the free MySalesTips newsletter. You can also get exclusive discounts when you follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Improve your response rates with the right call to action

March 16, 2011

As a small business owner, you’re always reaching out to grow your customer base. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve likely done the hard work of getting your database in order to be able to reach the right person at just the right time. Now it’s crucial to deliver the right message, specifically the call to action. What specific action do you want your prospects to take?

As part of maintaining complete customer profiles, you most likely know how your customers like to receive their communications from you. But it’s equally important to know how customers prefer to respond, which increases the likelihood they will answer your offer. Do your customers and prospects prefer to visit your website and, if so, have you created a landing page or visible messaging on the main page that receives and guides them to take further action? Do your customers lack workplace Internet access, so a phone option is more appropriate? Perhaps you want your customers to bring the mailing into your store for one-on-one contact. I prefer to provide multiple response paths, but always keep in mind the audience I’m reaching and highlight their preferred channel for the highest response rates.

The call to action also reflects the goal of the marketing piece. As a small business owner, if I want to increase referral rates then the call to action might be to bring a friend for a two-for-one discount. If it’s to increase connectivity, it may simply be to join my Facebook or Twitter community. If I’m selling a product, I’ll offer a special rate for a limited time. Help your customers take that next step by guiding them along. Call now. Click for your exclusive discount. Go online and register today! And a free gift can’t hurt either.

For more ideas to grow your business and your profits, be sure to sign up for the free MySalesTips newsletter. You can also get exclusive discounts when you follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Beyond Demographics—Do you really know your customers?

March 9, 2011

The ultimate way to reach out to your customers and prospects would be to get to know each one individually. Just like your friends and family, you would begin to keep track of birthdays, the birth of children, vacation plans. You would tailor everything about your offer and approach to their unique preferences, stage of life, life events, and whether they prefer a phone call, an email or a visit.

Finding cost-effective ways to approach this level of personalized communications has always been the Holy Grail of sales and marketing. Demographic characteristics — age, gender, marital status, presence of children, zip code — have been available for a long time and give us valuable targeting information.  But times change.

Economics, cultural change and technology are increasing the demand for communications that are more personal, more appropriate and delivered with pinpoint timing. Social networks are taking personalization to new levels with user-generated content. The pace of life is quicker, so as business owners we have only a split second to capture attention with a mailing, an email or an ad. Rising costs mean we must continually find better ways to improve return on investment by increasing response and lowering costs.

Fortunately, one of the consequences of the data revolution is that our ability to store ever-increasing amounts of information about consumers at a lower cost provides us with better opportunities to address our customers as individuals. The quality of the data is improving as well. Advances in micro-segmentation, behavioral data, transactional information, trigger life events and online data gathering are combining to create databases with vast stores of information that are the key to more personal and effective communications. So what is the best way to use this growing amount of consumer data?

Analytics help you know who your customers really are. The most reliable way to find new customers is by having a complete profile of your existing customer base—their demographic characteristics, behavioral attributes, transaction history, life events, wealth indicators, interests and affiliations.  By analyzing your customer base, you can correlate it with thousands of consumer selection criteria to develop a more accurate customer profile. This is the basis for more targeted customer acquisition campaigns.  For example, Acxiom uses more than 100 independent data sources and covers 99% of all households in the U.S. With this vast reach, they are able to correlate your customer profile with more than 1,500 household characteristics and score every household on their likelihood to respond to your campaign for more targeted marketing.

Enhance your customer file for improved results. I write a lot about the value of data hygiene. Keeping customer files up-to-date can provide big cost savings. But there are other important ways to enhance your customer and prospect database. By appending the demographic, wealth, lifestyle and behavior data that correlates most highly with your buyer portrait, you can cultivate your current customers more personally and effectively.You can also add email addresses and phone numbers to add variety in your communications. A well-coordinated, multi-channel approach to marketing will reinforce your message and improve results.

It’s not that difficult to work with a fairly limited set of demographic attributes to create a targeted mailing list. But with the vast amount of data now available, we have the opportunity to significantly increase the response to our marketing campaigns. Technology no longer just stores the data, but creates predictive modeling and more complete buyer profiles to deliver significantly better results and return on investment.

For more ideas to grow your business and your profits, be sure to sign up for the free MySalesTips newsletter. You can also get exclusive discounts when you follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Targeted lists stretch health care and personal care marketing dollars

March 2, 2011

Health and personal care is a competitive business. I can’t go more than two days without receiving a Groupon or Living Social promotion from a personal trainer, fitness center, salon or massage therapist. These social coupon sites can be great for generating business, but they can also spell disaster for small businesses that aren’t prepared for the response and have offered too deep of a discount.

If you’re in the personal care business, then you know that finding the right marketing mix can be as difficult as a monkey pose. My friend owns a hair salon and found that fliers just weren’t cutting it, so she turned to to help grow her business. By creating a mailing list tailored to her particular business type, she was able to develop much more efficient advertising campaigns that lowered costs and brought in more business. has created a special section for personal care services on their site to help target customers by more than 25 categories of consumer attributes. Try it out and get a special superhero discount of 30% on your first order of mailing or phone lists with promotion code #newcustomers.

You can see all of the videos at my YouTube site. And for more ideas to grow your business, be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

How fast does the value of your data diminish?

February 23, 2011

When was the last time you updated your customer database? Even within a year, the information you’ve collected or purchased can become significantly outdated. Today’s consumers are busy and literally on the go. Experts estimate that roughly 20%, or some 24 million of the 300 million people residing in the U.S. today, move every year. That constant flux can wreak havoc on even the most basic consumer address information you collect and maintain. Adding to this, companies must also consider ongoing life-event changes that affect consumer behavior — from marriages to childbirth to home purchases to retirement. That’s a lot of data to maintain. And because it constantly changes, it makes direct mailing more challenging than ever.

Successful companies know that they must reach the right customers and prospects with the right message. But what companies are quickly learning is that the right message doesn’t mean much unless it comes at the right time. You’ll get a better response to your diaper delivery service from families welcoming a new infant in their household rather than a new teenage driver. But if you sell insurance, then that new driver needs your name! Reaching the right prospect at the right life-stage means achieving a deeper level of consumer understanding based on many data elements, all of which begin with accurate name and address. From there, you can add demographics, past and present purchase behaviors, life-stage events and predictive characteristics such as home ownership.

How much of a difference can the right data make? For Lift for Life Charter School in St. Louis, MIssouri, outdated lists with no defined characteristics meant missed opportunities, wasted money and little response rates to their mailings. The school switched direct marketing providers and created new lists with current, targeted niche market segments. The result? The school has received more calls from their mailings than they have had from any other direct mail, advertising or door-to-door outreach. You can read the full case study here and see our other case studies for ways to incorporate customer segmentation into your marketing.

For more ideas to grow your business and your profits, be sure to sign up for the free MySalesTips newsletter. You can also get exclusive discounts when you follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Start with the right ingredients for the best results

February 16, 2011

High-quality, targeted data in your direct marketing campaigns can mean the difference between an ineffective, costly campaign and one that gets real results at a fraction of the cost. It’s like cooking. When you start off with the right ingredients, you end up with a tastier dish. That’s why is powered by data from Acxiom, a global leader in marketing services and technology.

Small businesses get a big advantage with Acxiom’s comprehensive marketing databases. They can tap into the same data that large companies use for their campaigns. Sprint and Fed-Ex have both turned to Acxiom to help increase sales, with both companies seeing major results and recognition by the Direct Marketing Association(DMA). Each year, the DMA International ECHO Awards honor the world’s best direct marketing campaigns that raise the bar in terms of strategy, creativity and results. At this past year’s conference in San Francisco, the DMA honored Acxiom with a silver International ECHO award in the Communications/Utilities category for their “Lifecycle Email” campaign for Sprint. Acxiom’s “Think Fed-Ex First” campaign for Fed-Ex earned fifth in the ECHO award competition. Kudos to all!

Who you do business with can make a huge difference to your bottom line. When you’re choosing a data provider for your lead generation and customer retention programs, be sure to select one that can deliver the robust data and services that will give your campaigns the right kick.

Why not try out today? You’ll get a special #superhero discount of 30% on your first order by using the promotion code #newcustomers.

And for more marketing tips and special offers, sign up for the MySalesTips newsletter. You’ll also find me on FacebookTwitter and YouTube, sharing ideas with other business owners and marketing professionals.