Incentivize Everything! Fans and Followers

Previous posts in this series:

If you want something to happen, don’t just sit around and hope for it. Go out and do something to make it happen. That’s the entire philosophy to the Incentivize Everything series.

These days, companies of all shapes and sizes are exploring social media. How can we use this phenomenon to attract new business, satisfy past or current customers, or generate something newsworthy about the brand?

There are few “tried and true” strategies in this still-developing space. Many companies have had success within the various networks, either sharing an idea, getting customers involved, or offering special deals to followers. But one thing is true, before you can capitalize on those people who follow you in the social media world, you need to go out and get those followers.

Give people a reason to Follow you on Twitter, or Like you on Facebook, or subscribe to your blog, or your YouTube account. Sure, producing interesting, shareable, and relevant content is a great start. But don’t just sit around and hope that people come out of the woodwork and discover these networks on their own.

Direct them there. Provide links in your email, on your website, across the various networks. And give them an added incentive to join.

You can offer a free prize to your 100th, or 1000th, or 1,000,000th follower. You can host a trivia game in which your followers answer questions for a chance to win prizes. You can offer a free download, something of value, to everyone that likes you on Facebook. Whatever it is, people will be drawn to getting something for free. It will give your company a chance to drive up your “social audience”. And then you can decide what the best strategy is for capitalizing on that army of followers.

Incentivize Everything! Customer Loyalty

The age old saying in business goes something like, it is 10 times more cost efficient to keep a current customer than to get a new customer. But in today’s world of unlimited choices, how can you keep your current customers from going elsewhere? That’s the question I’d like to answer in this post, Part Five of my series entitled “Incentivize Everything!”

The truth is this, if you provide exceptional service, you’re sure to get repeat customers. The majority of people who buy from you will make future decisions based on the experience that that have that first time. If you meet or exceed their expectations, the next time that need comes up, it’s easier for them to go with a company they’ve already done business with than do the research it takes to find someone else. So already, the odds are in your favor, and it’s your business to lose.

However, in competitive industries, it’s more important to find other ways to ensure repeat business. That’s where incentives come in.

Part 2 of this series discussed the notion of offering incentives to first time buyers, in order to attract them away from your competitors. But in this case, what we want to do is show current customers that by sticking with us, they’ll get a better deal than everyone else.

Many companies have loyalty programs, and this is more of a traditional business practice than the other strategies that we’ve discussed in this series. But most companies miss the mark, making large claims to keep customers but offering very little in the way or discounts or special privileges.

Your customers know the value that you offer. They’re more comfortable paying full price than a new customer who may be trying you out for the first time, not so sure of what they’re going to get. So special privileges for people who are loyal to your brand might go a long way.

The airlines who offer strong frequent flier programs are the best example of this in real life. I’ll be loyal to your brand if it means: shorter lines, faster access to customer service, the more I spend – the more I save, add-ons.

If the only incentive to stick around is the fear of the unknown, or the effort it takes to move from one company to another, you’re missing the big picture. Eventually, most consumers will wake up to your competitor’s efforts to lure them away.

Incentivize Everything! New Hires

This is part 3 of my Incentivize Everything series. Be sure to check out part 2, entitled Incentivize Everything! New Customers.

For any company looking to grow and be successful, they require a talented workforce.  A team of employees who believe in the purpose and mission of the company will make it easy to implement new strategies, satisfy customers, and deliver great product.  And as a marketer, if customers are happy and the product is worth bragging about, it makes our job that much easier.

But what does it take to create a great team of employees? What separates the people who will do their jobs, and even do them well, from those that will go above and beyond the call of duty?

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, is well known for his ability to create a strong team of workers devoted to the brand.  Early on, Zappos instituted a policy for new hires, whereby they would offer each new hire a bonus (in the range of $1000-$2000, or about 1 month’s pay) at the end of their training period…to leave! By doing this, they were ensured that the people who stuck around actually wanted to be there, creating an atmosphere that supported professional growth within the organization and as a part of the Zappos family.

I am not saying that this is what every company should do, but it is a good example of an innovative human resources policy that led to a stronger team.

In many ways, traditional corporate salary structures actually discourage above average performance.  There is a great line from the movie, Office Space, that in many situations you are only incentivized to work just hard enough not to get fired.  And the truth is, companies that don’t use added incentives and don’t foster a sense of company pride usually discourage their employees from thinking outside the box.

If the only incentive is to stay employed, that’s all they’ll try to do.

But if you want real performance from your employees, than incentivize them to show you real performance.  Offer monthly, quarterly, or yearly bonuses that are tied to certain projects. Prove to them that if they come in ahead of the curve, they’ll be rewarded for it.  If they help you sell faster, lower cost, sign new contracts, that they will be acknowledged.

This creates a culture of efficiency, production, innovation, an optimization.  People will want to come to work and excel at their jobs.

Incentivize Everything! New Customers

This is part 2 of my Incentivize Everything series. Be sure to check out Part 1, entitled How to Create Product Evangelists.

As a company, we know that there are certain things that you’ll want to see happen.  Some are going to be more important than others.  But the point of this post, and others in this series, is that incentives can be put in place to help ensure those things happen the way you want.

Gaining new customers is an important part of any growing business. For someone to become a new customer, there are certain obstacles that they must overcome on some scale or another.   Among those obstacles is the cost.

Whether a new customer is a first time buyer in this category, or is choosing to switch from one company to another, there is a cost involved.  Lowering this cost is a very easy way to lower/remove an obstacle, and make the decision for a potential customer to become an actual customer easier.

There are a number of ways to do this:

  1. Introductory Pricing - created a buzz a few years ago when it was revealed that they were showing lower prices to new customers than returning customers.  In reality, this is a smart practice when acquiring new customers is a high priority.  If your product or service is a good one, and customer loyalty is not a problem for you, lowering the price for new customers adds to your base and should create a new batch of loyal followers.
  2. Free Trials – is just one of many companies that offer free trials of their products.  A free trial is a great way to convince consumers to come on board.  If there is no cost, all the customer has to spend is time to sign up or make a purchase.  And if you deliver on the promises you make, you should get a percentage of all free trials to convert into paying customers.  This practice works best with recurring payment models or subscription plans.
  3. Freemium – This is a model made popular by many internet companies, like Flickr.  Offer a free version of a product or service that does not have all of the bells and whistles of a paid version.  The free version still needs to work, so you have to be careful with how much you limit it.  It should be enough to create demand, but not more than it has to be, so that a percentage of people do convert into paying customers.
  4. Add-ons or Bundles – Incentivize a purchase by adding something to the equation that your competitors don’t.  Buy one get one free deals increase the likelihood that someone who would not otherwise purchase your product does so.  Throw in something of value for free and you are creating more value for the customer, increasing the likelihood of purchase.

There are many ways to incentivize a purchase, and playing with pricing like this is just one.  But when looking specifically for new customers, price can be one of the most important factors, as it is often the one obstacle that stands out in the consumer’s mind.

How to Create Product Evangelists

This is part 1 of what will become a running theme on this blog.  Incentivize Everything!

There are things as a company that you should want to happen. And in the online space, some of those things will be more attainable than others.  Product evangelists are people, specifically consumers, who are so in love with your product or service that they will take it upon themselves to create a buzz about you. Essentially, it’s free marketing.

As marketers and business owners, you want this.

You want people out amongst all of the potential customers talking about how great you are, and directing others right to you. If you look at yesterday’s post on Digital Ambassadors, you’ll note that there are going to be people talking about you whether you like it or not.  So the more evangelists you have out there, the better off you’ll be.

How do you create evangelists?

A good start is to incentivize them. An affiliate program is a great way to encourage people to send qualified traffic your way. They are easy to set up, easy to spread, and easy to track.

If you make $10 on every sale, you should have no problem kicking back $1 to your evangelist who sent you the sale.  This encourages them to do it more often, and in more places.  You’ll create an army of evangelists ready to spread the word for you.

ING Direct used an incentivized referral program when they first started gaining some notoriety, and this helped them double their customer base in a few months. (P.S. if you're interested in setting up an account with ING, I can refer you and you'll get $25 for doing nothing - email me.)

For a quick and easy way to set up, track, and share an affiliate program, try Share-a-Sale. They’re an affiliate network who have been around a long time, and are more than suited to help you meet your goals. Click here to get started.