Do You Agree With These 13 Black Cat Marketing Tips?

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13-black-hat-tips
It’s Friday, the 13th! What a perfect time to share 13 marketing tips to exude a professional brand.

Professionalism is not just an idea; it’s a big deal. Having a team of dedicated and professional staff makes a huge difference in how customers perceive your business, repeatedly patronize it, and refer it to others. It can make or break your business brand whether you are a sole proprietor, have one employee, or employ a hundred people.

1. Maintain a clean, tidy, and safe work environment.

Maintaining a professional workplace contributes to your company’s brand reputation and service delivery quality. Customers and employees may not say anything, but if your place of business is a mess or unsafe, it can leave a negative impression.

2. Appearances count. Make positive impressions.

First impressions count and your attire, grooming, and overall appearance are definitely part of those initial brand impressions when serving customers in person. Appearances can also affect perceptions and behavior.

3. Company vehicles represent your brand. Present them professionally.

If your company operates delivery or service vehicles or you drive a car with company advertising, the lettering and vehicle wraps reflect your brand’s appearance, too. It’s always best to use professionally designed graphics.

Driving behaviors can also affect brand impressions. When you (or employees) drive company vehicles irresponsibly, giving other drivers “the finger,” speeding, running red lights, or cutting people off, you are definitely sending unprofessional messages, to say the least. Plus, consider the liability issue when employees aren’t practicing safe driving habits.

4. Signage represents your brand. Make sure signs are professional.

Outdoor and indoor signage is as important as your company’s other marketing collateral. In fact, your company’s signage may be the first representation of its brand that customers and prospects see. Ensure signs are consistent with brand identity standards and professionally designed.

5. Ensure that employees exemplify good business etiquette.Businessman extending hand

Even though you may hire polite people with sound business knowledge, it may be prudent to include business etiquette best practices in your employee handbook to outline the company’s expectations.

e.g. Don’t take credit for something you did not do. When you work on collaborative projects, always mention the others involved.

6. Ensure customer communication is top-notch.

Responding to customers quickly, whether by telephone, e-mail, social media, website, chat, or other channels is imperative to your company’s level of professionalism and its brand reputation. It’s important to reply in the channels people have used to contact you, so having protocols for each channel you offer is a wise move.

It’s also smart to gauge which channels your customers prefer, even if you don’t use them yet. Once a channel reaches a tipping point, your company needs to stay in the game and adopt the ones that customers favor.

(The next 3 tips are a subset of #6.)

7. Telephone communication must be consistent and represent your company’s brand.

No matter how you personally feel on any given day, your telephone communication must be consistent and represent your company’s brand.

e.g. Change your voicemail message if you’ll be away from the office, indicating whom to contact in your absence. If you don’t do this, callers won’t hear back from you until you return from vacation or illness. Not only is it unprofessional, by that time, it can be too late.

8. Ensure you have ample coverage to manage online chat tools.

Online chat has certainly matured as a customer communication channel over the past few years. It can cut your business’ customer support costs; improve response times; increase leads, sales, and brand loyalty; and provide valuable customer feedback and information.

e.g. It’s OK to use “canned” responses (pre-scripted messages) whenever they apply. Just make sure that they sound human and not robotic.

9. Ensure there are professional email communication guidelines.

E-mail is still a ubiquitous form of communication in the workplace. Since this channel has been with us a lot longer than other electronic communications, many believe that they have a solid grasp of it. However, it’s still a good idea to develop e-mail standards that ensure consistency, good etiquette, and professionalism.

e.g. As with other channels, use full sentences and correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Avoid jargon and acronyms that recipients may not recognize.

10. Ensure there are ethical and behavioral standards.

A company that behaves unethically or unprofessionally will ultimately lose customers and employees. Professionalism in your workplace relies on establishing parameters on what is suitable office behavior and decorum and what isn’t.

Of course, you’ll want to create an enjoyable and lively work environment, but sometimes limits are necessary to avoid team acrimony and misunderstandings.

11. Ensure business communications and documents are professional and consistent.

If providing quotations, estimates, or proposals is part of your business’ operations, it is more professional to prepare them in written format using a company template. The same applies to invoices and most business documents. These materials should adhere to your company’s brand identity standards guidelines, consistent with its other collateral.

12. Choose the “right” hires that convey your brand personality.job interview

When hiring new employees, you want to look for sharp-minded people who not only fit your company culture, but will present your brand with professionalism and excellence. They will control the customer experience, so it’s crucial that they’re invested, energetic, and empowered to make sound decisions on your company’s behalf.

13. Be gracious when things go wrong.

This is a biggie. One thing I’ve learned over time… things will definitely go wrong, no matter how much you work to avoid them. The key to small business marketing and branding success is how you professionally manage blunders.

Being gracious and professional during mishaps can distinguish your business from its competitors. Customers will learn to count on you even when things go awry.

Takeaway:

Running a small business professionally can certainly give it a business edge. From appearances, behaviors, ethics, and communications, each impression your company leaves with its employees and customers affects its brand reputation, credibility, customer confidence, level of trust, and ultimately, its ability to  succeed.

(Excerpted from Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success©2015, All rights reserved.)

Do you have any tips to add?

92 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Elaine,

    I definitely agree with these marketing tips.

    I like the way you made this post creative with the “black cat” marketing tips.

    It’s hard to add to these tips and even harder to pick the best ones, but I would go with both 6 and 10.

    Ensuring customer communication is very important to any marketing effort.

    I think even with great products, it’s still important to communicate correctly with customers. I have seen how bad customer communication negatively affects a good product.

    And ensuring there are ethical and behavioral standards will make or break any company.

    Thanks for these tips. I am off to your blog to read more of your posts.
    Barbara George recently posted…7 Things I Can’t Live Without being a MumMy Profile

  2. I like this post, Elaine.

    My best tip from the 13 is ensuring employees exemplify good business etiquette.

    You are correct that hiring polite people is not enough. Including business etiquette best practices in employee handbook to outline companies’ expectations is key to success.

    To answer your question, yes, I agree with these 13 black cat marketing tips.

  3. Hey Elaine,
    I couldn’t agree with you more on this:

    “From appearances, behaviors, ethics, and communications, each impression your company leaves with its employees and customers affects its brand reputation, credibility, customer confidence, level of trust, and ultimately, its ability to succeed.”

    Professionalism is required by small businesses to create the impression of trust and authority. Every business should strive to embed this in its approach and strategy.

    The first impressions last longer hence marketers sustain their credibility and productivity by being professional in conduct, communication, and association. I will add that investments should be made on professional tools.
    Sunday William recently posted…Is It Really Necessary To Watch The Competition?My Profile

  4. Sure Elaine,

    I agree with these 13 marketing tips you have shared. Professionalism is key to increased marketing success.

    Customers look out for success triggers in businesses and professionalism is one of them!

    Consistent value delivery is all that is needed for increased professionalism in the market place.
    Celine recently posted…How Soon Do You Deal With Bad Online Reputation?My Profile

  5. In an ideal world, every business is supposed to exhibit a great level of professionalism.

    However, this is not so with the real world because many factors affect different businesses in different ways.

    If there is proper planning and commitment to excellence then every business is going to increase the good perception in the eyes of the world. This will ultimately and consistently help them to increase conversion and productivity!

    These 13 tips are okay. I completely agree with them, Elaine!

  6. Hello Elaine,

    Some of these are fundamental business tips to help any business succeed.

    For example, maintaining a clean, tidy and safe work environment should be fundamental to the success of business.

    I think the same applies to some of the other tips.

    This all makes this post even more helpful as fundamentals are very important to the success of any business.

    Thanks for sharing these tips.
    Yan Yan Chan recently posted…Overexposed.My Profile

  7. Hello Elaine,

    I like these tips but what do you think about the seventh tip in this Internet era?

    There are many companies in this Internet era who are not so much into telephone communication.

    Even big companies like Google. It’s hard to reach anyone on Google using the telephone.

    I once had problems with my Adsense account but couldn’t reach anyone on Google and kept getting automated email replies for weeks.

    Why do you think Google has grown so big without such communication?

  8. Hi Elaine,

    I like the 13th tip the most because things will always go wrong, whether in personal life or business life.

    Your tip of being gracious when things go wrong is really good.

    Being gracious and professional will also help one stay focused enough to solve what goes wrong.

    Thanks.

  9. Hello Elaine,

    Like others who have commented here, I agree with these 13 tips.

    It’s true indeed as you said that responding to customers quickly, whether by telephone, e-mail, social media, website, chat, or other channels is imperative to anyone’s company’s level of professionalism and its brand reputation.

    Good communication with customers is really important as you explained here.

    I am not surprised that 4 of the 13 tips have to do with communication with customers.

    When communication breaks down, nothing else matters, hence the importance of communication.

  10. Hello Elaine,

    This is a great list of tips to adhere to. The one that just seemed to jump off the screen for me is Tip #3 – Company vehicles represent your brand. Present them professionally.

    I have been cut off by a few company vehicles in my time and for some reason I never forget the company that the vehicle represents.

    For some reason the brand name etches itself in my mind and I discover that a huge chasm of trust must be leapt in order for me to even consider giving that company my business.

    Such a small thing such as rude driving and that company lost a prospective customer. But not only that, just think of how many people spread the word about how some jerk driver from company X cut off a car on the expressway this morning.

    Thank you for these 13 valuable tips.
    Adam D. Mason recently posted…3 Excuses Keeping You From Making ContentMy Profile

  11. I thought there would be some black hat reference too! Nevertheless, nice post Elaine, you put it together very well.
    And no matter how many times it gets repeated, number 6, ensure your customer communication is top-notch, is always key to any business!

  12. Thank you for sharing this insightful article on marketing.

    I found that the information provided was very broad in terms of business. The ideas are general to any body I believe who is looking to get more out of their situation.

    These tips can be applied to a single individual, to an entrepreneur, and to a thriving store front business.

    Awesome tips!

  13. Hi Elaine,

    This share is helpful, both for the newbie and the already established marketer.

    I am in support of the fact that marketers must hire the right people that will help convey brand personality!

    This is crucial as it will help improve customer experience always for the customer!

  14. Yes, I agree with these marketing tips. They are informative, instructive and resourceful.

    In most of the details, it is confirmed that professionalism is required to deliver value to the customer.

    This can be exhibited through the creation, presentation, and promotion of a product.

    More so, it can be achieved through a professional customer service.

  15. Hi Elaine,

    Your opening quote says it all:

    “Professionalism is not just an idea; it’s a big deal. Having a team of dedicated and professional staff makes a huge difference in how customers perceive your business, repeatedly patronize it, and refer it to others. It can make or break your business brand whether you are a sole proprietor, have one employee, or employ a hundred people.”

    This should be a guiding principle for successful online marketing!

  16. Well, I certainly agree with the pic! I love it.

    I also agree with the tips, especially the one about the vehicles. It’s not just the appearance , either; it’s also about the driving. The last thing you want is everybody in town swearing and cursing about “Those damned A1 Plumbers! I’ll tell you what the A stands for!”

    The vehicle and the driver both represent the company, as does every other asset, human or equipment, related to the company.
    David recently posted…Three ways to write for the WebMy Profile

  17. Hi Elaine,

    I am surprised at how much I learned from this marketing post.

    Yes I agree with these tips. I like short and straight to the point each of the points are.

    Regarding the 5th tip on employees exemplifying good business etiquette, that’s very true.

    Even with the best product, customers want to deal with employees who treat them well and who represent the product correctly.

    By the way, I like the picture of the smartly dressed employee you used there 🙂

  18. Hi,

    These are good tips, thanks for sharing them.

    Regarding tip #13 though, it’s pretty hard to be gracious when things go wrong.

    As you rightly said, things will go wrong, no matter how hard one tries. Everyone handles this differently, most worse than others.

    Do you have a particular tip to share to help with being gracious when things go wrong, Elaine?

    • Apologies for not replying sooner, Abigail. This one slipped through the cracks.

      I included “10 Gracious Things to do When You Hit Those Bumps in the Road” in my book, so I’ll share #1 with you now.

      Diffuse customers’ panic, anger, or negativity by staying calm and listening. If you panic (and you will at times), keep your customer communication even keeled, warm, and friendly. Empathize with customers while expressing your concerns, as long as it accompanies your plan to solve the problem ASAP.
      © 2015 Elaine Fogel
      Elaine Fogel recently posted…A Sure Fire Way to Market to MillennialsMy Profile

  19. Hi Elaine,

    Terrific post. Loved the content. Your 10 Black Cat marketing Tips (BTW, why Black cat? Just curious) made a ton of sense to me.

    What a lot of business owner’s seem to have forgotten is that today’s customer are astute and well informed. The Internet has made them so. Each potential customer knows the power of social media as well.

    Today customer’s read about the products and services available on your website, BUT do not buy immediately, 95% of the time.

    They will take to Google. Search for alternatives in functionality and costs.
    They will do a search on the reputation of the website as seen by Google.

    They will take to social media and read what – Real People – may be saying about the products and services available via your website.

    Today’s customer’s will be especially careful to read about other people’s – experiences – when buying anything OR when trying to get a refund for something purchased.

    It’s only after this that a potential customer will make a – Purchase – decision.

    Hence, I believe that in today’s super competitive world, potential customers are actually looking for reasons to – Drop Out Of Your Sales Funnel – rather than just keep going through to a final purchase.

    I completely agree with all of the 13 point you’ve raised. A business owner can neglect them only if they want to go out of business . . . fast.

    Warmly,

    Ivan Bayross
    Ivan Bayross recently posted…7 Simple Editing Rules That Will Transform Your Blog PostsMy Profile

  20. Hello Elaine,

    These are very good tips.

    Regarding the tip of telephone communication needing to be consistent and represent company’s brand, that’s very correct. Unfortunately even some big companies don’t follow this important tip, particularly those who outsource to third world countries with very poor customer care representatives.

    Dealing with customer care representatives on phone is always a nightmare.

    In a recent Amy Schumer’s comedy sketch, she got so frustrated with customer care from India for her American Internet provider that she “paddled” over to India and shoot herself and the representative.

    I still can’t understand why companies would frustrate their customers just to save cost by outsourcing customer care to third world countries.

    Have you had experience such experience?

    And why do you think more companies continue to do this?

    • I know exactly what you mean, Lucy! Been there, done that.

      In my own experience, I’ve had some nightmarish conversations with overseas customer service reps, but I’ve also had some really good ones, too. I believe it all depends on expectations and training established by companies.

      As more and more customers post their frustrations on review sites and company websites, businesses are slowly getting wise. In the U.S., Discover card guarantees that callers will always get a “live” human answering the phone who promise not to up-sell you.

      Now, that’s a good start. Hopefully, more companies will follow suit and realize that their customer service reps represent their brands.
      Thanks!
      Elaine Fogel recently posted…Comment on Top 9 Benefits of Building a Strong Brand by Elaine FogelMy Profile

      • I thought as much that you would have your fair share of nightmarish conversations with overseas customer service representatives. Who hasn’t, right?

        I have also seen some companies mentioning the “same country-based customer representatives” in their promotions. That’s a good start too.

  21. Hello Elaine,

    I just stumbled on this post and love your 13 black-at marketing tips.

    My best is the last tip on the list:

    “Be gracious when things go wrong.”

    Things go wrong all the time, even with the best business intentions and practices.

    People are kind enough to understand when they see any business is doing their best in such times. They also understand because things go wrong in their lives too 🙂

  22. Hi Elaine,

    I just had read this to see what exactly “black cat” marketing tips are. LOL…

    Thank you for this article…

    I think so many of the tips just simply focus on being polite and professional. Even the idea of keeping a clean office to foster professionalism makes a lot of sense.

    The way people drive now a days, it’s important to know that your employees are representing your company when they are out of the road…

    The last thing you need is road rage in a car with the company logo.

    Also, if you just always remain polite people are going to reward you just for being a good person.

    You always win more flies with honey rather than vinegar!

    Have an awesome weekend!

    Take care Elaine,

    John