Five Favorite Freebies You Can Steal

If you’re looking for ways to boost your productivity, technology is a great place to start.  The good news is there are many free options available.  Here are five favorites you might not know about.

1. Bridge lines.

If you need teleconference lines, you’re in luck:  there are many high-quality options that are completely free.  You can have several people, even hundreds, dial into a line and conduct a meeting or training session via the phone.  You can record the session and download the recording as an MP3 file that can be played on an iPod.

Some of the more creative ways to use these free teleconferencing services include:

  •  Staff meetings when someone is absent so they can listen later.
  • Free teleconference, providing tips to all your clients.
  • Free teleconference, allowing prospects to call in and sample what you offer or find out what you’re like to work with.
  • When you need to record anything. (You often need 2 people on the line to be able to record, but not always.)
  • To record a quick training session or how-to that can be distributed later.
  • To have a client record a testimonial you could put on your web site.
  • To record a meditation or therapeutic session you can listen to over and over again.
  • If you’re a coach or trainer, you can record the client training session and give the download as a service perk.

Our favorite:  http://www.freeconferencecallhd.com.

2. FileZilla.

The FileZilla client version allows you to transfer large files between computers that are connected to the Internet using FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  It’s handy for many reasons:

  •  When you need to load large files such as videos or audios to your website
  • When you need to upload something to an artist, a transcriptionist, a warehouse, or other supplier
  • When you have documents such as white papers that you want people to have access to but don’t want to have to keep contacting your webmaster

Download the FileZilla client and find out more here:  http://filezilla-project.org/

3. Gmail.

It’s just a great idea to have a backup email address in addition to the primary email address you use.  Gmail is perfect for this.

Go one productivity-boosting step further, and make your gmail account the one you use for all that email you don’t need to read as frequently.  This could include notifications from social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, blog notifications, list posts, Google alerts, and any other nonproductive email, you don’t need to respond to.

Open your Gmail account less often than your primary email (even once a week if you dare) and gain that productivity boost.  You’ll have freed your inbox from a bunch of clutter and can focus on your clients’ and employees’ emails instead.

Visit this site to find out more:  https://mail.google.com

4. WordPress.

WordPress is free blog software that you can install on your web site or blog site.  Once installed, it’s super-easy to use for both blogging and a website.  You can add photos, graphics, white papers, videos, and audios to the library to put on your blog or your site.

It’s also great for search engine optimization; the search engines love it and will rank you higher when you blog and post fresh content.

Visit http://wordpress.org/ to find out more.

5. Ning.

Ning is a community platform where people can come together and post a profile, participate in discussions, join a group, and interact.  Not all business models will benefit from Ning, but many of you are involved in a club, church group, nonprofit organization, or community where Ning could be very helpful.

Ning is almost free, at $19.95 per year or $2.95 per month, but it’s such an amazing platform, I include it here.  Whenever you’d like to have a private (or public) community of people who are joined by a common interest, Ning can provide that extra online community connection that can help you group interact and bond even more.

Find out more about Ning at http://www.ning.com.

What are your favorite freebies?

Seven Ways to Wow Your Clients

One of the main reasons clients leave is because they feel ignored.  The cost of ignoring clients is high; you have to do more marketing and replace those clients when they leave.  The antidote to this is easy:  just stay in touch more with clients, and let them know you care about them and their business.  Here are seven ways to stay in touch with all your clients and especially your long-term customers.

1. Pay a compliment. 

Sometimes when we’re in an “all-business” mode, we forget the simple things.  Take a minute to look around and find something to compliment your client on.  What have they done to support you?  What are they a natural at?  What traits do they have that you admire?  Tell them; they will appreciate it because it won’t be expected.

2. Rejuvenate your service with long-time clients. 

Recall the first week that you signed a new client.  You were both excited about beginning your relationship, and your service was likely top-notch.  Now take a look at the service level of clients you’ve had for a while – for months or maybe even years.  Is it the same?

If not, consider putting the spark back into the relationship!  Long-term clients deserve a higher service level than new clients; yet it’s often the other way around.  Take a look at what you can do to spice up your service level, whether it’s returning calls and emails faster or delivering the work earlier as a surprise.  Your long-term clients will appreciate it and know that you’re making an effort not to take their business for granted.

3. Acknowledge referrals quickly.

Clients that pass you referrals are taking two risks when they refer you: 1 – that you will do a good job, and 2 – that their friend will like you.  Help them feel like it’s worthwhile by responding quickly to the referral as well as acknowledging and thanking your client for the referral.

This is best done by a thank you card or a phone call.

4. Send a newsletter.

Keep clients informed of tips, discounts, new services and products, and events with a newsletter.  There are many ways to create a newsletter, and the most important aspect is to make sure it’s as relevant as possible to your clients.

A newsletter does not have to be elaborate or time-consuming.  At its simplest form, it can consist of a single, short article.  As you further develop it, you can add in components such as a brief company description, a quote, a testimonial, an events calendar, a customer spotlight, a greeting, additional articles, a poll or survey, and special offers.

5. Celebrate birthdays and/or anniversaries. 

Everyone loves to have their birthday acknowledged.  Send a card to your clients in their birthday month.

The best birthday cards are just that, real birthday cards without company logos or sales pitches.  If appropriate, consider a surprise twist on the birthday theme:  send cards to your client’s kids, spouse, or pets.

Another great twist to acknowledge clients is to send an anniversary card on the date they first started doing business with you.  This is a great option if you don’t have clients’ birthdays recorded.  And it’s a great surprise because clients do not see it coming!

6. Offer longevity or loyalty discounts.

It’s common practice to offer new clients discounts.  It’s less common to reward loyalty.  Give current clients better breaks in your prices than new clients.  This incentivizes clients who already like your products to buy more.  The more they buy, the more likely they are to keep doing business with you.

You can also surprise long-time clients with periodic bonuses and gifts.  Don’t do it too often, because it will be expected.  For best results, the bonus should come completely out of the blue.

7. Express gratitude.

Say thank you to current clients every chance you can.  Thank them for their business.  Thank them for their loyalty.  Thank them for paying their bill on time.  Thank them for being easy to work with.  Thank them for being flexible.  Do this by sending cards or emails for no reason other than to thank them.

These positive interactions with your current and long-time clients will strengthen your relationships with them, help you say what’s often not said enough, and improve your client retention.

Are You in the Business of Pleasure?

You might not think you are in the business of pleasure, but we all are, to one degree or another.  If we don’t give our clients a great experience, they’re not likely to come back.  That’s why we can learn so much from the entertainment industry, even though we might not be in it directly.

Pleasing Clients

From the day a prospect calls you, emails you, or enters your shop, what do they see, hear, feel, taste, and smell?  Is it pleasant?

  •  In a movie theater, the smell of popcorn is tempting as you take your comfortable seat and watch previews, engaging you while you wait for the start of the movie.
  • In a spa, you are treated to snacks and drinks in a comfortable robe while you wait for your session.
  • In a restaurant, you are served drinks, music, and appetizers while you enjoy the company of your friends and family.

There’s no reason your customer experience couldn’t be as enjoyable, even if you are a dentist, a doctor, a lawyer, or a professional that’s associated with a somewhat unpleasant service.

Your Company Experience in Surround Sound

The first step you can take to enhancing your prospects’ or clients’ experiences is to map out all of the interaction points they have with you.  Your list could look like this:

  •  Website
  • Phone call
  • Office appointment
  • Email
  • Billing

Or this:

  •  Walk-in to store
  • Employee greeting and interaction
  • Sales at register
  • Charge on credit card statement
  • Thank you note

Make a chart like the one below for each touch point and fill in what you think your customer may experience with you at each point.  It’s perfectly OK to have some that won’t apply; I don’t know of any technology that will get your email to smell!

 

Touchpoint Sight Sound Touch Taste Smell
Walk-in to store Merchandise Loud rock music Fabrics Refreshments Lavender
Employee greeting Well-groomed employee wearing the sale item featured in your store Pleasant, not pushy Products Drinks are offered
….
Phone call Voice mail that is not initialized Automated voice N/A N/A N/A
Office appointment Lobby with awards and prospect kits rather than magazines Calming standards piped in Fabric of chairs Refreshments Cinnamon

 

As you review your chart, are there any areas in which you could improve?  The nice thing about charting it out is that it organizes it for you so that any weaknesses or strengths pop right out.  The ones highlighted in yellow could be improved!

Where you have touch points with limited sensory impact such as email, phone, and billing, it is important to make the most of the senses you do have access to since they will be amplified.

If you feel like you cannot be impartial or simply don’t know what your customer experiences, you can hire a mystery shopper to provide an objective report of your customer experience.

A Movie with Great Reviews

Your client already has a movie going on in their mind about what it will be like to do business with you.  Your job is to impress them with an experience they won’t forget, and you can do it in any situation, no matter what business you’re in.

Examples:

  •  Dentists:  One of the worst parts of going to the dentist is hearing the sound of the drill.  Pass out iPods and headphones with a choice of music styles to drown out the unpleasantness.
  •  Restaurant owners: If your customers have to wait for a table, hire a mime, clown, or performer that can keep them occupied and make the wait time go fast.
  •  Plumbers:  Leave behind a clean house and scented oils for the kitchens and bathrooms.
  •  Retail shop owners:  Heat up a pinch of cinnamon in your microwave to have the whole store smelling like an apple pie or some scent that coordinates with your merchandise.

If your clients call you by phone rather than see you in person, you can script a pleasant greeting for your employees to memorize.  For clients on hold, give them something memorable to listen to such as a poem, jokes, or unusual music.  Even with email, you can create a great signature line that appeals to your clients, and of course, craft a message full of gratitude and compliments.

When you can wrap an excellent experience around the products and services you sell to customers, your word-of-mouth will spread, saving you time and money.  Think of what will work in your industry, and give your ideas a try.

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