Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Watch Out for Scams!

This past week I received a very curious response to an ad I placed in CraigsList.  I avoided the scam it presaged and can share this as a warning to any venture that uses CraigsList or similar sites as a marketing tool.

The response I received carried several warning signs.  One, despite my effort to narrow the respondent's focus to better understand their need, the final email concentrated only on my specifying the total cost of the service.  Two, the individual only identified himself by a first name.  Third, the person wanted to pay in advance, sight unseen (!).  Fourth, and most importantly, this person was out of our area and did not ask to meet face to face.

Now, there are many honest buyers and sellers on CraigsList.  I myself have sold items there to people who played by the rules.  But anything that looks suspicious probably is.  I discontinued my conversation when I spotted the pattern noted above.  (And for those questioning the scheme, it would next involve my cashing their check, remitting some money to them on a pretext, and then discovering later it was a bogus check and owing the bank all of the money.)

Bottom Line: use Internet tools with care.  Be nervous when payment is offered up front and in the form of a regular check, and when the prospective purchaser won't meet you face to face, and if the person seems to be hiding something.  Move on politely, but move on.  You will save yourself from heartbreak!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Labels Seal the Deal

Over the weekend I came across an interesting phenomenon, twice, and both involving the power of labelling and disclosure.  While both involved baked good food sales, the mechanism is, I think, applicable to any business.

In one case, an item on a bake sale table quickly sold out, not because it looked great (less successful items were as tasty looking) but because the baker affixed a clear label stating what the product was, giving the buyer a good idea about what the thing tasted like and what was baked inside.  In another case, I overheard a parent declining to buy a baked good because she couldn't tell what might have peanuts inside.

This led me to think about other products and services and how well they are "labeled".  For example, does a service describe all included items, process and other details?  Does a product label fully itemize whether something of concern is included (be it toxic ingredients, or batteries, etc.)  I know that I scrutinize packages for details and data.  I try to fully understand what is involved in enrolling in a service.  I assume others do as well!

Bottom Line: are we respecting our customers enough with the best labeling we can provide?  Are our services and products explained to reassure a client or customer?  The result may be a sale we might have otherwise lost!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Multiplicative Power of Testimonials

Some of the business owners I know get a huge boost from absolutely free advertising---in the form of customer and client testimonials.  These come in the form of spoken messages (usually at networking events but sometimes in videos) and written treatments, usually on web sites but sometimes on printed material.  I'm convinced these are one of the most powerful tools we can use.

For me, a testimonial usually makes me more interested in the person being testified about.  Someone has taken the trouble to sample a product or service, visit a business, or interact with the provider and then takes the effort to speak about that experience.  People don't readily do so (well, unless they are upset!) so there is added information I have about the product or service.

How to get some "good press"?

Observing those in my networking groups, it is clear to me that those who ring in the most testimonials usually ask for someone to sit down with them or to sample what they do.  They also reciprocate and show appreciation for the favor.  I also notice that those known to be "hard sellers" and "not-team-players" don't tend to get testimonials.  All this is to say that no one really feels obliged to talk up a person who is unworthy of the favor.

With the rise of social media, testimonials take on a very critical role.  Those who give testimonials talk about a producer outside that producer's circle, and other people are quickly impacted, some of whom will try something out because of the second-level trust relationship.  I have found myself talking up producers I hardly know because someone I trust vouches for them.

Bottom Line:  You can boost your advertising potential by paving the way for testimonials.  Ask people to try something, for free.  Ask people to listen to your story (but remember to ask what you can do to help them!) and always return the favor!  Ask anyone who does business with you to say something about their experience you can quote and paste to a web site or social media post.  And above all, thank them for taking time to help.