The surprising value of a lifelong customer

How many customers do you have? A florist might say 1,000. Printers — well, we have a few, too, right? How much is your average sale? For realtors (according to Google) — about $260,000. For florists (I’m guessing here) — $100. Printers… well, you know what you spend with us.

So think about it this way:

The big money isn’t in creating products; it’s in creating customers. A single, lifelong customer who lives his life spending the way you want him to may be worth six or seven figures. A single one.

That guy who spends $2,500 a year with you is worth $60,000 over a lifetime (25 years). That means you only need SIXTEEN lifetime customers to reach a million dollars. Want $10 million? That is only 160 lifetime customers.

Yes, I know it doesn’t work that way all the time, or for everyone. But I also know this. Customer loyalty counts. And that’s worth a million every time.

Social media sites are eager to answer your questions

Gotta question? Or maybe an answer? It seems more and more social media sites are listening. LinkedIn has long had a LinkedIn Answers feature, where people can ask business-related questions and get answers from experts in the community. Facebook added Facebook Questions late last year, and Quora, a relatively new kid on the block, is based entirely on questions and answers from members of its growing community.

Question and answer features provide an excellent opportunity for finding information and for setting yourself apart as an expert in your field. On Quora, for example, members can view questions based on topic, follow specific topics that interest them to see what others are asking, follow specific questions to see new answers as they appear, and rate answers, so the best answers work their way to the top of the heap. The Quora website is built on a structure similar to Wikipedia and uses moderators to ensure content is appropriate.

Starting out on any new social site can be a bit daunting. Before asking a new question on Quora, Facebook Questions, or a similar website, look for similar questions that have already been posted. With thousands of questions in place on virtually every topic under the sun, don’t be surprised if your question has already been asked and answered. As you become more familiar with the site, start answering questions that fit your area of expertise. Engage with other users who share your interests, and stay involved.

For more information about Quora, visit To learn more about Facebook Questions, visit And to join the conversation at LinkedIn, go to

The continuing growth of social media marketing

Social media marketing is becoming an important cog in the wheel of many companies’ overall marketing plans. According to, U.S. advertisers spent $1.7 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) in 2010 on social media marketing. Of that, 53% was spent advertising on Facebook. Globally, companies spent $3.4 billion on social media marketing in 2010.

Pepsi — a staple of Super Bowl ads for decades — has announced that it will not run any ads in this year’s game. Instead, the company will invest more heavily in social media campaigns.

So what are the most popular social media channels for large companies? HubSpot reports that 65% of Fortune Global 100 companies maintain a corporate Twitter account, 54% host a Facebook page, 50% have a company YouTube channel, and 33% run a company blog.

Having a Facebook page, Twitter account, or blog is one thing. Keeping it active is something else entirely. Of the companies cited earlier who use Twitter, 82% post multiple tweets per week. Among corporate YouTube users, 68% upload at least one new video per month. On Facebook, 59% post at least once per week. And 36% of corporations with blogs update those blogs at least once every month.

While HubSpot focused its research on larger corporations, social media marketing is ideally suited for small businesses, too. The cost of getting started is minimal, and commitment can grow and scale over time.

If you aren’t using social media marketing, I recommend you start. If you can’t commit too much time, that’s ok. Start small, and build your efforts as time allows. Begin with a Facebook page for your company, a blog (like this one), or a Twitter account. Make a plan for adding new content regularly. And engage with customers who engage with you online.

Once you’re started, include the address for each of your social media channels on your website. Add your Twitter name to your business cards. And begin to engage with your customers and prospective customers through social media. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’d like to see more from the HubSpot study referenced in this post, visit:

Change — and controversy — are brewing at Starbucks

Starbucks has decided to rid itself of the bothersome words “Starbucks Coffee” in its logo and leave behind only their green mermaid. The company says it’s making the change because it sells more than coffee.

This is a pretty familiar issue to printers who debate changing their name from SomeName Printing Company to SomeName Marketing Company, in order to emphasize the diversity of products and services they provide. It’s equally familiar to any company that is thinking about rebranding.

Some people think such a name change is a silly move. “I think it’s nuts,” said James Gregory, chief executive of brand consulting firm CoreBrand, in a Reuters article. “What’s it going to be — the coffee formerly known as Starbucks?”

On the other hand, there are companies for which their logo is so universal they don’t need anything else. Apple comes to mind. For their part, Starbucks says, “Our new evolution liberates the siren from the outer ring, making her the true, welcoming face of Starbucks.”

So I guess the question is — what do you think? Will you buy more stuff from Starbucks, sans the “coffee”? And would you ever consider a similar move for your own company?

For reference, here’s a link to the Reuters’ piece quoted above:

The Nation’s Mood, According to Twitter

Researchers using data from Twitter, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Google Maps API have mapped the mood of our nation over a three-year span, based primarily on what we tweeted about during that time. A joint venture of scientists at Harvard and Northeastern universities, the study looked at 300 million tweets sent between September 2006 and August 2009. Here are some of the findings:

* Tweeters tend to be happiest early in the morning (around 6:00am) and later in the day (around 10:30-11:00pm). Moods dip to their lowest in the early afternoon, then slowly begin to rise again.

* Not surprisingly, weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) are the happiest days of the week. In fact, Sunday morning ranks the highest overall.

* Thursday — not Monday — sees the lowest dip, on average, of any of the days. Our collective mood bottoms out on Thursday evenings, apparently.

Tweets were scored against the Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW) word list to determine their overall “mood.” The researchers say they plan to continue their work into the future, with further breakdowns of weekday versus weekend moods.

More details can be found online at the study’s website:

Follow-up is still crucial in today’s wired world

Even in today’s wired world of Twitter, LinkedIn, email, and smartphones, everyone misses an occasional call or is away when an important email arrives. Follow-up is essential in these instances to let your customer know you care.

When a customer contacts you, it’s imperative that you follow up as quickly as you can. Even if you don’t have time to give the customer’s issue your immediate attention, provide them with a quick status update to acknowledge you’ve received their message and are working on the problem.

Unless the person tells you how they prefer being contacted, follow up the same way they first contacted you. If the person emailed you, reply with an email. If they left a voice mail, reply by phone. If they tweeted you, tweet them back. Some people prefer one means of communication over another. Usually, that preferred method is the one they will use when contacting you.

If you’re working on a long-term issue with a customer, check in frequently to let them know you’re still on the case. Even if you don’t have a solution yet, just knowing you care enough to stay in touch will help to put their minds at ease.

Social media basics for busy businesspeople

We’ve all heard about the importance of social networking, but what is social networking exactly? A social network focuses on building a group of people who share common interests and activities. In this case, we’re talking about online social networking… the biggest free party in the world. Social networks make it easier for people to interact with each other. But social networking has a lot of outlets (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn), and it can become a time-intense process to effectively track, converse, monitor, and manage them.

But if social networking is so time intensive, why bother? Selling is selling. You can’t get away from that. Social networking doesn’t — and shouldn’t — replace selling. Social networking is part of MARKETING. Selling and marketing are two sides of the same coin. And since coin is what we’re trying to get in your pocket, we need to pay attention.

Small Business Magazine advises, “We all know how important word of mouth is, and social networking is like word of mouth on steroids. As a business, it’s vital to tap into and join online conversations not only about your brand, but also those about your competitors, your industry, and your areas of expertise.”

The social networking tools you choose depend on what you want to accomplish, how much time you can commit, and where your comfort level lies. To simplify things, I’m only going to stick with four basic social networking tools you might find helpful: Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Benefits: Great for keeping in touch with friends and far-flung family…now also used well for businesses.

How to use it: Create a Facebook page JUST for your business, then update it one to two times per week. Join in discussions about topics relevant to your business and customer base. A printer, for example, might join conversations about local area businesses and the chamber of commerce.

Benefits: Terrific for your search engine optimization. A great way to let people know what is going on with your business. Somewhat more personal feeling than a standard website.

How to use it: Lots of great, free blogging tools are available. If you decide to start a blog, you should commit to posting at least one blog entry per week, to encourage repeat readership and maximize the SEO benefits.

Benefits: Short and sweet. Allows people to follow you and get information that is up-to-date and content rich in short sentences.

How to use it: For Twitter, you’ll want to post something fresh every day. Don’t tweet about what you’re doing at the moment. Instead, tweet links to helpful websites and articles people might find fascinating. Follow your competitors and customers on Twitter, and listen to what they’re saying and doing.

Benefits: A great business networking site. Easy and common sense.

How to use it: Add updates at least once per month. Join groups relevant to your business. And answer questions from other members.