Do you know what your customers think about your products and services?
Successful business owners know that no matter how busy they get, it's critical to take time to get customer feedback - to know exactly the type of service and experience their clients are getting. It's why shows like Undercover Boss exist today. In the event that you don't make it onto the show but are still looking for some valuable feedback, there are some easy ways to incorporate customer feedback into your business culture.
We heart feedback
First off, let me congratulate you on making the wise choice to pursue feedback. Understanding your customers' opinions will not only help you improve quality, it can give you insights into what new products or services you might offer in the future. Knowing what you're doing right also helps guide you about where to focus your energies, and it may even give you fodder for marketing. Plus, customers love to know that they have a voice and are being heard. (Who doesn't want to have their opinion matter?)
Back in the day, feedback used to mean having a suggestion box or maybe a form on your website (if you were tech savvy). Today, there are many low-cost approaches out there to help you take the pulse of your customers. Here are 4 easy ways to make customer feedback a core part of your business.
Conduct an online survey
Most companies get occasional fan mail - and those pesky critical e-mails from time to time. But before you jump through a bunch of hoops to correct whatever the squeaky wheel might be complaining about, it might be a good idea to survey more of your audience. It's a great way to determine what's a burning issue and what's merely an isolated incident. If you have email addresses for your customers, conducting an online survey can be a great way to get a variety of feedback from a large audience in a fairly short amount of time. A few tips regarding your survey: keep it short (5-10 questions) and only ask information that you really need/want responses for. If you're looking for a great online survey tool, we recommend SurveyMonkey, whose low-cost and web-based survey solutions are a natural fit for small businesses on a budget.
Once you've developed your survey, your next step is to get your customers to take it. We recommend offering an incentive for survey participation. (Bribery may be the best policy here!) You could enter them into a drawing for a free product or service - or offer a discount on their next purchase.
Ask for feedback via Facebook or Twitter
If you're just looking for some quick feedback, it could be as simple as posting a question or poll on your Facebook wall or via Twitter. This is a great way to get fast insights into new products, new branding or even new store locations or lines of business. If you have new marketing colors for your logo that you just can't decide between, post both (clearly marked A and B) and ask your friends or Twitter followers which they think represents your company the best.
Conduct a focus group
Focus groups are representatives of customers whose job is to provide you with information on their needs and preferences. This is a great way to ask follow-up questions and really dig deep into your customers' minds. Gather together some of your best (or a random assortment of recent) clients. Put them in a room and ask the tough questions. Really listen to what they say. You might be surprised by what comes out of their mouths! Additionally, it might help you realize that you have 2-3 types of customers: those who want convenience vs those who value personal attention. Whatever the case may be, you can use that information to help you target more of these valued customers in the future - as well as really take to heart the honest feedback they offer.
Use a feedback form
Another approach to getting customer feedback on an ongoing basis is a hosted feedback form. The point of a feedback box is to get small feedback from users on an ongoing basis. Most likely, if customers have a minor issue or suggestion, they won't reach out for support. (As opposed to how they come screaming if the problem is big enough.) If you have a feedback box, it offers a place for people to easily tell the company when something isn't working quite right. It's conveniently placed on your web page so it's easy to find, but it's also out of the way if they don't need it. Feel free to experiment with different locations to see which one encourages the most feedback from your customers. Once again, make it simple and easy to use, or you'll probably miss out on the feedback it was designed to catch.
Once you've conducted all your research, make sure you pay attention to the feedback. It doesn't necessarily mean that you'll opt to act on every single suggestion, but it's at least worth consideration. If you're collecting feedback from your customers consistently, you're building your business in the right direction. Experiment with various methods above and find the right combination that works for your business.
I'll admit it... I love conferences. I love to travel, I love networking, I love learning, and I love speaking at conferences. So pretty much everything about conferences appeals to me.
I've had the pleasure of also participating in panel discussions at different times as moderator, panelist, and sometimes audience member. Panels are a great way to connect subject matter experts with people who are interested in learning from them in an informal Q&A format.
Here's the thing: it's really easy to have a boring panel. There, I said it. You know you were thinking it, though.
How many panels have you sat through that held the promise of enlightening discussion, only to end up being a waste of time? I know I've been to my share. I've also been to great panels that provided real value to me and ended up being a great use of my time.
So what's the secret to a great panel? Here are a few elements.
The right topic
Be sure your topic is specific and interesting. From what I can tell, most conference organizers choose vague, general topics because they want to be as inclusive as possible and avoid missing anything. However, this is a recipe for an unfocused discussion that will frustrate your audience.
Try choosing a topic that is specific and somewhat spicy. For example, instead of "How to use Social Media for PR," try something like "How to Recover from Social Media PR Disasters." Which one sounds more exciting?
The right panelists
I've been on panels before where two of the participants were subject matter experts and the third panelist was thrown in just to round things out but really did not work in the same space as the topic covered. The poor panelist ended up looking very out of place and caused an imbalance in the discussion.
When choosing panelists, be sure to select people who are subject matter experts, who can demonstrate real success stories, and who are interesting and passionate. The right panelists will help a panel discussion really shine.
The right moderator
This is the most important element of a great panel discussion. Nothing will kill a panel discussion faster than a boring, long-winded moderator. I've sat on panels where the moderator thought it was a combination fireside chat and solo presentation (with the moderator being the presenter!). They end up sucking up the first 40 minutes of a 60-minute session by telling their own stories and lobbing their own questions at the panelists the whole time. By the time they get to audience questions, everyone is already bored and there is only time for a few questions.
The audience did not come to the panel to hear the moderator. They came to talk to the subject matter experts. The moderator may also be a subject matter expert but that is not his/her role at this time.
A great moderator should follow this formula for running a panel:
A great moderator will keep the conversation flowing, will keep any one person from being too long-winded, and understands why people are there... to ask questions! The real value of a panel discussion is letting the audience guide the conversation so they can discuss topics with the panel that are relevant to them. Also, the moderator should not be scared of allowing and even encouraging lively debate.
Plan a successful panel
So next time you are in charge of arranging a panel discussion at a conference, remember the elements that will make it one of the most memorable and valuable sessions at the event. Choose the right panelist, moderator, and topics, and you will create and outstanding learning experience for your audience.
Trade shows are a great way to network and get your business name out there. But if you’ve never attended one before, you might be clueless about where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 ways to help make your next trade show a success.
Pick the right event
Try to get into the brains of your customers. What trade show would they likely attend? If you’re targeting homeowners, a Home and Garden show would be a great fit. If you’re looking for developers, you might attend Gnomedex. Go where you think your target market will be. That's the perfect place to start!
Most professional conferences provide a list of companies represented (or a nice shiny pie chart with demographics). If you’re lucky, you might get contacts from the show organizer. Offer a pre-show promotion three months ahead of time. You might even offer to give them a free __________ (fill in the blank - it could be a free demo, consultation, or even a bobblehead...just make sure it’s enticing) if they visit your booth.
Define your goal
Before you even go, it’s important that your team agrees on the overall goal of the trade show. It could be anything from obtaining leads to educating people about your company or product. Others might attend simply to support an industry or event. Whatever the reason, your goal will help determine your strategy, so make sure you determine which is (or are) the most important to you.
Develop a timeline leading up to the event to make sure you have ample time to prepare for everything you want to feature. If you need a fun new video to play, it will take time to produce. And those slick, new brochures likely won’t design or print themselves. Build in time to make your plans become a reality.
The cost of your booth is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to total price of the event. Plan a budget for travel, hotels, signage, swag, raffle items, staffing, food, etc. The more priority you place on something, obviously the more money you will put toward it. Although some things, like travel, aren’t necessarily negotiable.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Offer an easy-to-carry, memorable, useful piece of swag with your logo on it. If you’re at a exhibit in Hawaii (Lucky you!), hand out suntan lotion, flip flops, or water bottle. Your swag doesn't even necessarily have to have anything to do with your product. We here at SpinWeb love to hand out water bottles with our logo on it, but that doesn't necessarily have much to do with web-based marketing, other than the fact that we drink a lot of it while we're hard at work.
The more people you can bring to your booth, the better. Consider a raffle. Obviously, the more valuable the prize, the more of a crowd it will bring. (If someone was giving away a free iPad, I’d definitely put my business card in the fishbowl!) If you can’t afford a big-ticket item, you might consider a Spin the Wheel type game with smaller prizes. The goal here is to create enough buzz around your booth that people will be drawn to it like bees to honey.
There will hopefully be lots of people swarming your booth. Take a few moments and jot down a word or phrase on the back of the business card for each person you meet as soon as you finish the conversation. You might mention a physical characteristic (“Gorgeous redhead”) or something you connected about (“allergic to shellfish”). Whatever it is, it will help jog your memory when you go to follow up with them later.
Do something awesome
If everyone else is doing the same thing, why not do something different? Chances are, every other exhibit booth will have the standard signage, pens, and demos. Consider making your booth stand out by turning it into a "consulting station" or some other type of resource for attendees. Bring a bunch of power strips, snacks, and drinks and make your booth an oasis for people to sit down, recharge their phones, and have a drink. If you provide value to the conference attendees, your booth will be one of the most popular.
Then you obviously want to follow up with your new list of potential customers. Add them as friends of your company on Facebook and connect with them on LinkedIn. Naturally, you’ll want to thank them for stopping by. You might even want to extend any discounts or promotions you offered during the show for an additional 10 days. If there were clients you especially want to target, write them a handwritten note. The personal touch will go a long way.
Trade shows can be great opportunities for networking (not to mention people watching)! What other tips do you have for those considering visiting one for the first time? Comment below!
We are set up on Google Apps and one of our favorite apps is Google Docs (part of Google Drive). As part of the apps suite, Google offers an online word processor that allows you to create and manage documents online very easily.
So why would you want to use Google Docs?
Simple: collaboration. A Google Doc is not meant to be a replacement for all the fancy options available in a Word document. However, the thing that a Google Doc is great for is group document editing. It lets you create a document, share it with others, and then allow people to make changes and post comments directly on the document without having to email it around or worry about "who has the latest version."
One of the issues we've seen with Google Docs is that the concept of collaborative document editing is not always familiar to everyone. We often send a Google Doc to someone (accessed by a link) only to have them paste it into a Word document and send it back to us with their changes. This defeats the purpose of document collaboration, but it happens because the recipient is simply not familiar with how a Google Doc operates.
To help, here is a quick overview of how Google Docs work and how it can be a valuable system for document collaboration.
Creating a Document
To create a document, you would first go to your Google Drive interface. Drive is where documents are stored. Once you are logged in with your Google account (either via Gmail or your Google Apps for business account) you'll see it at the top:
Click on "Drive" and there you are. This drops you into a screen that lists all of your current documents. If you have not created any, the screen will have no documents there yet.
To create a new doc, click on the "Create" button and you'll see some options:
You can add a new folder to store docs in, or you can create a new document. You can also create a new spreadsheet (simillar to Excel) or presentation (simillar to PowerPoint), but we'll stick with a standard document for now. Just be aware that the same options apply to other types of docs, as well.
Once you create a new document, you'll be presented with a blank page with a standard set of word processing tools at the top.
The first thing you'll want to do is name your doc. Do this by clicking the words "Untitled document" at the top and giving it a new name.
Now you are ready to write! You can treat this just like a regular Word document. Type and format away.
Additionally, your document is stored in the cloud, which means you don't have to worry about saving it to your computer or losing it. It's auto-saved every minute, so all you need to do to get back to it is open your web browser, go to your Google Drive, and click on it. Easy!
Now that you have created a doc, it's time to see where Google Docs really shines. Let's set up a scenario that might be familiar to you. You are working on a document that requires feedback and input from others in your office. So you put together a report as a Word document and email it to a group of 4 other people with the note: "Please give me your changes." Each person then makes notes and changes in the doc and emails it back. Now you have 5 different versions that you need to consolidate back into one. Ugh!
A Google Doc eliminates this headache. All you would need to do is "share" the doc with your co-workers and ask them to make their changes directly in the same document. You are now working on one document as opposed to 5 different docs.
To do this, you would first click on the "Share" button in the upper right.
This will open up a screen that allows you to share the doc.
By default, it is shared with no one. Now, let's say I want to share it with some of my co-workers. I would enter their email addresses into the "Add people" section in order to "invite" them to work on the doc with me.
Note that if you start typing an email address that is already in your contacts list, it will auto-complete with their full name, so you can just select them from a list as you can see above. Otherwise you can just type in their entire email address. Separate multiple email addresses with a comma.
Also note that by default you are inviting people to edit the doc. This means that the people you invite will be able to make changes. However, don't worry... you can always undo their changes (more on that later). Once you click "Share & save" an email will be sent to the people you invited with a link to the doc. They will then be able to click the link and view it, as well as edit it.
You can also add a personal message to the doc (which is a good idea) so that the people you are inviting have some context.
I usually ignore the other checkboxes as I don't see a need to send a copy to myself or to paste the doc in the body of the email. There are some cases, however, where it might make sense, so feel free to use them if you want. Be sure to leave "Notify people via email" checked so they will know about it.
So what happens now? Well, the people you invited will now get an email with a link to the doc.
Now they can simply click on the link to go to the doc and edit it directly online.
Here's the cool part: they can make all the changes they want at the same time, and every version is tracked and saved automatically. Additionally, you can compare and roll back to any earlier version you want. People can also add comments to the doc as a way of offering feedback without actually editing it.
If you want to see the entire revision history of the doc, go to the "File" menu and choose "See revision history."
Then, you will be able to track every change. You will see a list of all the different versions along with time stamps and who made the changes.
Clicking on a version will show that version of the document to you. If you want to roll back to a previous version, you can choose to "restore" that version.
Here's another cool feature. While people are editing the doc, you can see it in real time. You will be able to see who is viewing it based on their icon in the upper right, and you can see who is making what changes in real time.
Pretty cool, huh? And remember, there is no need to save anything. All changes are auto-saved every minute so the document is always up to date.
As you can see, using a Google Doc for collaborative editing is a very efficient process. It means that everyone is only editing one document; everyone always sees the latest version; and all changes and comments are tracked and saved. Additionally, it can be edited from tablets and mobile devices for even more flexibility.
If anyone wants to download a copy of the doc in another format, like Word or PDF, that's also easy. You can go to the File menu and choose "Download as" to export the doc in another format.
This allows you to take the finished version and use it any way you want to.
There are lots of ways to use Google Docs. You can share docs within your own organization (via Google Apps) or you can share docs with people outside your organization, as well. Simply use their email address when sharing, and they will get a link to edit (or just view if you want to offer view-only access).
Some ways to use Google Docs include:
The possibilities are endless. Any time you need to collaborate on a document with someone else is a good time to consider a Google Doc. Some other advantages of Google Docs include:
At SpinWeb, we find that Google Docs is a great place to keep "in-progress" stuff. We don't treat it as a permanent home for a doc; rather, we use it as a stream of working docs that may eventually be exported to a more permanant home. It's a great place to collaborate and create without committing to saving a bunch of docs on your computer.
I hope this has given you a good primer on the advantages of collaborating with Google Docs.
It seems that a lot of our clients are looking for more engagement on social media. Many of the organizations we work with have a strong Facebook presence and consider it a high priority network to focus on for business.
However, many organizations struggle with "engagement" on Facebook. They post content that they feel is valuable, but for some reason they are not getting as many "likes" or comments as they would like. As you know, it's not good business to chase likes. However, there's nothing wrong with trying to reach more people with your post, right?
If you struggle with Facebook engagement, try using "big image" posts. So what's a big image post?
As of the writing of this post (May 2013), Facebook favors images with more weight than links or text. I slipped the date in there because Facebook is known to change things all the time so be warned.
So what does this mean for you? If you share a blog post as a link, then it will get some exposure but its reach can be limited. However, if you share an image it is more likely to reach more people since Facebook puts more weight toward images.
Images also tend to be more interesting to people since they stand out in the news feed - especially if they are striking and well-designed.
So how do you get attention with a big, beautiful image on Facebook yet still encourage people to link over to your blog post or other website content? Link to your content from within the image description!
Here are some examples from Massamio (a SpinWeb client) on Facebook:
Notice how the posts consist of a big, beautiful image that includes useful information, but then the description includes a link to more information. Here is another example from another SpinWeb client. CultureRx is an HR consulting firm that provides workplace culture training and sometimes a funny photo is all it takes to create engagement and discussion:
No link needed in this photo. It's job is simply to provide some entertainment and engagement.
Here are some tips for approaching Facebook with a more visual strategy:
So if you're still scratching your head trying to figure out how to increase engagement on Facebook, try switching to "big image" posts and see if your numbers go up.