By Rick Mullen
Maintenance Sales News Associate Editor
One aspect of creating a marketing strategy for small businesses, as outlined by Jean Hanson, of Marketing Systems By Design, located in Rogers, MN, is creating and adhering to what she calls the Marketing Hourglass™.
“The Marketing Hourglass is a tool I use with my clients to trace marketing tactics along every step of the customer journey — all the way from where the prospect first comes to know your business, to where the customer becomes a fan of your business and gives you referrals,” she said recently, while speaking to an audience of janitorial/sanitary distributors and commercial and residential cleaning professionals.
Hanson said one common mistake people make in the effort to market their companies is “asking your prospect to "marry" you on the first date.” She gave as an example the person at a networking event who goes around passing out a business card to the people he or she meets, looking at all of them as potential customers.
“The problem is, all the people you meet aren’t necessarily your prospects,” Hanson said. “What you don’t realize is, even though some of the people are not your prospects, they might have a huge network of people they know who could be your prospects. Therefore, you want to start building a relationship with that person. Otherwise, it is like asking someone to marry you on the first date. There is no relationship. Why in the world would people buy from you or refer you, just because you handed them your business card?”
The Marketing Hourglass
Hanson spoke of the sales or marketing funnel, a concept that has been around for a long time, and one which she said is broken.
“The idea is you get leads into your sales funnel so you can continue to market to them and, hopefully, get a few clients out of the bottom (of the funnel),” Hanson said. “The reason I say the sales funnel is broken is because it is incomplete. It focuses solely on the chase. People are chasing prospects. Yes, we all need to convert prospects to clients, but what’s missing is all the additional marketing you can do during, and after, the sale.”
Unlike the simple marketing funnel, the hourglass is comprised of two funnel-shaped glass bulbs connected vertically by a narrow neck. In Hanson’s Marketing Hourglass, the top funnel contains the elements of “know,” “like” and “trust,” while the bottom contains “try,” “buy,” “repeat” and “refer.”
“People need to know, like and trust you before they’ll buy from you,” Hanson said.
She added, what is missing in many companies’ marketing efforts are activities that build ‘like’ and ‘trust.” In the “incomplete” marketing funnel concept, people are trying to create awareness for their businesses, while chasing prospects, but are missing out on the entire concept outlined in the hourglass imagery.
“If you have at least two or three marketing tactics that you are employing along each stage of the hourglass, you are going to create marketing momentum for your business, and you are going to be touching prospects along every step of the journey,” Hanson said.
Hanson offered marketing tactics businesses can use to “fill” their marketing hourglasses in each of the seven stages. They are:
• Know: “‘know’ is how you create awareness for your business,” Hanson said. She outlined some of the tactics in the “know” category, such as networking.
“During networking events, you are meeting people for the first time,” Hanson said. “Also, advertising goes in the ‘know’ category because, traditionally, it is all about creating awareness.
“Referrals are listed under ‘know,’ because, when you get a referral, that is the first time a person is introduced to your business.”
• Like and Trust: Hanson said “like” and “trust” are similar, with “trust” being a little “deeper” than “like.” One element of “like” is a company’s website.
“Let’s say a person is searching and asking questions on the Internet, and he or she lands on a blog post on your website that addresses a very specific question that the person searching asked,” Hanson said. “If your content answers their question, you’ve just built ‘like’ with that person, because the content resonates with him or her.”
Social media also is an element of “like.” In the above example, the searcher might notice social media buttons below the blog post.
“That person might share the blog post or ‘like’ your Facebook page, or follow you on Twitter. You are building more ‘like’ with that potential customer,” Hanson said.
In another scenario, a potential customer lands on a company’s website that contains a lead generation tool, such as an eBook, white paper or a checklist, which the searcher finds compelling enough to sign up to receive. In doing so, the person gives the company his or her email address.
“Now, you are starting to build ‘trust,’ because people don’t give away their email address very easily these days,” Hanson said. “If you then start sending them your newsletter, which contains valuable content that they find useful … you are building even more ‘trust.’”
• Try: “‘try’ is a way for people to experience a business, either for free or for a low cost,” Hanson said. “For example, you might have some free sample products you could give away.”
Conducting demonstrations, both live and on video, also fall under “try.”
“You want to give potential customers a taste of what it would be like to work with you by offering a ‘try,’” Hanson said.
• Buy: The underlying principle of “buy” is it must be more than just an exchange of money.
“You want to make it an experience, especially those of you who are providing cleaning services,” Hanson said. “You need to have some sort of a system — something that ‘wows’ them when they are coming onboard with your company.
“Having a ‘new client kit’ would be perfect. You can explain what is going to happen next. You can also have a page of bios of your employees.
“Customer service training has to go along with this, too. You need to teach your employees how to work with, and how to treat, customers.”
• Repeat: “We all want repeat customers. That’s the goal,” Hanson said. “How do you keep customers from jumping ship and going to the next person just because they have a lower price?”
Hanson said one pitfall in the effort to keep customers coming back is a lack of consistency in the service a company promised up front.
“You do really great in the beginning and then, after the first couple of months, maybe the consistency drops off a little,” Hanson said. “What can you do at that point to make sure you keep them on as a returning client?”
Hanson suggested conducting customer satisfaction surveys two or three months after onboarding new clients.
“Call customers and find out if they are still as happy today as they were three months ago when they hired you,” she said.
Another strategy to help build loyalty is conducting special customer events.
“I have a friend in Dallas who has a cleaning company. When it is 100 degrees and everybody is sweating bullets, she has an ice cream social and invites all her clients,” Hanson said. “It really helps to deepen relationships. Customer events are a great way to keep repeat customers.”
• Referrals: Hanson said there are two types of referrals: client referrals and strategic partner referrals. As many companies are not in the habit of actively seeking referrals, she suggested setting up a system to ask for them. Timing is also important in this process.
“As soon as I get someone saying something positive about my business — many times we get compliments through email — I will email back and say, ‘That is so nice of you to say. Would you mind if I quoted you for a testimonial on our website?’” Hanson said. “You can also ask the customer at that point if he or she knows anyone else who could use your service.
“We have also conducted workshops with our strategic partners. A lot of distributors host workshops, so you could partner up with other vendors and then each invite your own customers. This generates more referrals for each of the vendors presenting the workshop.”
Hanson said many small businesses are putting all their marketing efforts into the “know” portion of the hourglass, while neglecting the other elements.
(click to see larger image)
“When you have developed marketing tactics for each step of the hourglass, you’re going to create that marketing momentum,” she said.
Audience Participates In Workshop
After giving an overview of the seven elements of the Marketing Hourglass, Hanson asked the audience to participate in brainstorming ideas under each step. Discussing “know,” she asked participants what they are doing to create awareness for their respective companies.
One audience member said his company is using vehicle wraps, which include a logo, phone number and website address.
“Those are perfect for generating awareness,” Hanson said.
Hanson reminded the audience that advertising and direct mail are also ways to create “know.”
“We do a lot with direct mail,” an audience member said. “I’ve gotten quite a few commercial accounts that way.”
Hanson also suggested using video to create awareness.
“YouTube is the No. 2 search engine behind Google,” she said. “People are going to YouTube, searching for how to do things. You can introduce your business through YouTube by shooting ‘how-to’ videos.”
The next step discussed was “like.” Hanson asked the audience what they are doing to build “like.”
One audience member responded: “We have a commercial and residential cleaning business. With the residential, we donate a lot of house cleaning to local charities and schools.”
For “like,” Hanson also suggested conducting silent auctions, fundraisers and local sponsorships, such as youth sports teams.
“We talked about direct mail as being part of ‘know,’ but what about repeat direct mail?” Hanson asked. “Doesn’t direct mail do better when you do repeated mailings? Sometimes it is the fourth or fifth mailing that a customer starts paying attention.”
QR (quick response) codes are another way to build “like,” Hanson said. According to www.qrstuff.com, a QR code is a mobile phone readable bar code that can store website URLs, plain text, phone numbers, email addresses and pretty much any other alphanumeric data.
An audience member who spoke earlier of using post cards said: “I use (QR codes) when I send out my post cards. Customers can scan it, go right to our website, or go to a printable coupon, for example.”
Hanson added: “I’m seeing (QR codes) on a lot of products, too. It directs people to a landing page, not just a home page. You want to have a purpose for the QR code.
“As soon as a person scans something, that is creating ‘like’ because they are curious and want to know more. If you send the person to a landing page that gives him or her something of value, you can start building a little ‘trust,’ as well.”
In speaking of building “trust,” Hanson said one strategy is SEO (search engine optimization).
“If people are searching and they find your business on the first page of their search results, do you think they are going to trust you more than the company that doesn’t show up until page three or four?” Hanson asked. “People tend to trust companies that are on that first page of results, because they know how much work it takes to get on the first page.”
Hanson listed newsletters as another way to build “trust.”
“We used to send print newsletters to our customers, which not a lot of people do anymore. I still believe when a newsletter is in a customer’s hand, that really helps to build ‘trust.’ Customers used to call us asking, ‘Where is my newsletter? I haven’t seen it yet this month.’”
Testimonials, case studies and marketing kits are also ways to build “trust,” she said.
“A marketing kit is a sales converter,” Hanson said. “You can make your case as to why people should buy from your company with your marketing kit. It can be a print document that you give to people or you can add it to your website as a downloadable PDF.”
While videos are listed under “know,” Hanson said they also build “trust.”
When brainstorming “try,” Hanson asked the audience, “Does anybody have a guarantee?”
One audience member said his cleaning company offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, whereby any customer issues will be corrected within 24 hours.
“Having a strong guarantee takes the risk out of it for customers, so it becomes a ‘try’” Hanson said.
Seminars, workshops, gift certificates, discount coupons, free trials and public speaking were also listed under “try.”
“Does anyone do any public speaking? — that can definitely generate leads,” Hanson said. “Public speaking really helps to demonstrate your expertise, and does a great job of converting prospects.”
When it comes to “buy,” the idea is to make the experience better for clients by going beyond just an exchange of money. Ideas discussed included providing a new client kit, putting appropriate positive messages on invoices and giving customers unexpected gifts.
“Customer service training is key when it comes to offering a better buying experience for clients,” Hanson said.
For the “repeat” part of the Marketing Hourglass, suggestions included conducting customer satisfaction surveys, cross-selling, up-selling, client events, sending birthday cards and giving gifts, all of which help to establish loyalty.
“One of the things you can do is educate your customers,” Hanson said. “For example, you can educate them on how to keep floors shiny for a longer period of time after they’ve been polished.”
Hanson asked audience members if anyone had established a system for obtaining referrals. One person said his company had developed a referral program, with a monetary award given to companies making referrals.
Other ideas offered by audience members for “refer” included partnering with strategic partners in other trades, such as plumbing, electrical, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, and duct cleaners.
Volunteering and becoming a member of a local Chamber of Commerce were also mentioned.
“How about networking introductions?” Hanson asked. “This can also generate referrals. If you have someone you would like to be introduced to, ask a friend to make the introduction. That is actually a referral because the person is recommending your company. I also get a lot of people who recommend me through LinkedIn and other social media sites. Be sure to ask your clients for referrals. Anytime customers give you a compliment, make sure you ask them for a referral at the time they give that compliment.”
In closing, Hanson suggested audience members can obtain free eBooks, including one on the Marketing Hourglass, and another covering seven steps to small business marketing success, by visiting her company’s website, www.MarketingSystemsByDesign.com, and clicking on “free stuff.”
Contact: Marketing Systems By Design,
21897 S. Diamond Lake Road, Ste. 400-408,
Rogers, MN 55374. Phone: 866-684-2781.