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Ok, I should preface this announcement. CorelDraw being available as a standalone product is a relatively new development as they issued a press release to that effect in 2020. But hey, 2020 was a big year. A lot of other things were on our minds . . . so I figured you may have missed the news as well.
As we’ve said in a number of our articles: if you’re a graphic designer by trade, CorelDraw is probably not your graphics editor of choice. If you’re a small business owner without a lot of graphic design experience who is choosing to do branding in-house, CorelDraw is a great choice. You can address all your web and print graphics needs and produce sophisticated, high-end products . . . for a fraction of the price of the typical designer preference, Adobe. (These days, most Adobe products are only available via subscription, and their current price for their annual subscription paid monthly is $52.99 – $635.88 for the year . . . to be paid year after year for as long as you would like access to their products. Photoshop as a standalone is $20.99 per month; totaling $251.88 per year. For some people, paying that amount for Adobe products is an ongoing invaluable investment. For others – like us, it’s like buying a Ferrari to take your kids back and forth to school.)
As I shared with you in a recent article, I have learned that social influencers rule the world . . . or at least the small piece of the world in which they reign (read that story here). My goal now is to harness this great power – for the benefit of my small business as well as yours.
My direct experience with social influencers was limited to one feature in which I had no impact on the course of events. (In other words, I had absolutely nothing to do with the success I reaped.)
A social influencer made a video showing her followers how to create and package vanilla extract (using my label template) as a suggested Christmas gift (watch the full video here).
However, my logic in formulating an approach to being featured by another social influencer is to try to repeat (as closely as possible) this past success. I have a play book so to speak, but I need to do all the work this time to get the players in place. . . .
STEP ONE : Make sure your product or service is set up for affiliate marketing.
Since paid placements with social influencers can get pretty pricey, my route of choice is affiliate marketing, in which “an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals” (Oxford Languages). Make sure whatever venue you use for sales supports affiliate marketing. All of the big ones (like Amazon, Walmart, Etsy) do. If you sell your products or services through your own channel and don’t already have an automated commission structure in place, you may want to consider utilizing a popular third-party for that purpose. (The reason the third-party should be a popular one becomes clear in step four.)
STEP TWO : Decide on the right product or service for the time period.
Given our current, heightened focus on hygiene (which I think will last for years to come), I’m thinking DIY hand soap might be an equally popular Christmas gift for neighbors, teachers, mail carriers, etc.
Always think about holidays. Of course, Christmas is an obvious one (and you can’t start your planning too early), but lots of other holidays have great potential. Last week’s Super Bowl Sunday (whether people are quarantining or not) increased sales for many different types of businesses, and this week’s Valentine’s Day is another cause for lots and lots of cha chings.
Relating your product or service to current events is another boon.
STEP THREE : Seek out a social influencer who is a good fit for your product or service.
A social influencer typically has a brand all of their own, and you want to be sure your two brands are a good match for one another. For instance, my son’s favorite social influencer plays Roblox on YouTube. I have an in-depth knowledge of this individual (having overheard many hours of his videos, getting to know him and his favorite games), which is a great bonus, but he unfortunately would not be a good fit for my hand soap labels. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a resourceful guy, and I’m sure he could make it work, but I’m also sure he gets heaps of partnership offers and would be apt to pick a more ideal choice.
I focused my search by narrowing in on the related item. I searched google for “diy hand soap recipe” and found a number of influencers who had posted one. I looked for one that had a good following and had posted the story a while ago . . . and, therefore, could justify re-posting the story in the fall with a Christmas tilt.
STEP FOUR : Make sure they’ve used affiliate links for your platform before.
Since you’re approaching a quasi-celebrity, you want your proposal to be as easy for them as possible. Therefore, scan through their previous posts, videos, etc. Do they ever include affiliate links? If not, they’re probably not going to start doing so for you. If they do, what types of sites do they promote? Have they worked with your third-party before? If so, you have a much greater likelihood they’ll consider your product or service.
STEP FIVE : Temper your expectations based on the individual’s following.
The problem with the truly famous social influencers is that they are most likely not going to respond to unsolicited proposals. They already get a ton from big brands, so your average small business isn’t going to be able to influence them. However, the possibility always exists that you will just happen to be suggesting a product that they were planning to promote in the near future. Kismet. Probably not . . . but never entirely dismiss good old fashioned luck working in your favor. If you’re dying to work with a certain famous someone, give it a go; just don’t get your hopes up.
If you can get a macro or mega influencer to include your affiliate link, you’ve hit the jackpot . . . though your likelihood of doing so could be just as slim unfortunately.
The mid-tier is your sweet spot. You want the person to have enough followers that your product or service will have a substantial audience but not so many that they’re completely inundated with requests just like yours.
I certainly wouldn’t disregard micro or nano influencers, but you’ll need to focus on quantity in order to get a similar bang for your buck (in this situation, your effort being your “buck”).
STEP SIX : Spend some time getting to know your chosen influencer.
Once you’ve set your sights on your target (or targets), it’s time to become his or her biggest fan. Get to know the influencer better. I wouldn’t just recommend spending a concentrated period scanning previous posts, though that is a good idea, too. You need to become a follower and immerse yourself in their world for a period of time.
STEP SEVEN : Plan how you will send your pitch.
Instagram messages are the worst as they limit your number of characters per message and automatically insert pictures for any links. Facebook messages and e-mail are good. You also want to be sure you’re using a venue in which your message will actually be received.
STEP EIGHT : Create your pitch.
You have your strategy and you personally (kinda) know your social influencer(s) of choice. Now the time has come to draft your case.
Give a specific and thoughtful compliment – what exactly do you love about their personality, blog posts, videos, etc.? (Bonus if you can tell them that you’ve actually purchased something based on their recommendation.)
Introduce your business and your product or service and explain why you think it’s a match for this individual.
Include pictures – two should do the trick; maybe a high-quality close-up photo as well as another of your product or service in use.
Describe any tie-ins to an upcoming holiday or current events.
Highlight the benefits for them. You can include the affiliate commission rate and any sales expectations (based on how well the product has does in similar or even very different promotions).
Give you and your product credibility – include company AND product ratings.
Offer a coupon code or some type of discount specifically for this influencer, if possible.
Make yourself available for follow-up questions.
Thank them for their consideration.
In the near future, I’ll be putting together a couple proposals so you can see a few real-life examples in action. Stay tuned!
It was a normal Tuesday evening a few days before Halloween. I was answering customers’ questions on my computer, and I heard the usual “cha ching” sound, letting me know I had a sale. I went to my purchases page and saw a vanilla extract label template was sold, and I sent the customer the customary thank you message that includes some basic instructions. Then, I heard the “cha ching” again and experienced a little deja vu, since the order was for the same product. Moments later, one “cha ching” interrupted another, creating an odd “cha cha ching” sound. All purchases were for the same product. At this point, I’m thinking to myself, ‘I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of sales for that item before.’ A quick look at my product statistics confirmed that — since release — that item had only one or two sales per week. Interrupting my research, “cha ching.”
I started receiving questions about the item as well, and so I responded with answers to their questions along with a question of my own: “How did you hear about this item?” I learned that a social influencer on Instagram posted a video about making your own vanilla extract and included my label template.
I checked out her page (Daryl-Ann Denner at instagram.com/darylanndenner) and saw that she had over 600,000 followers (at that time; now her tally is getting close to 800,000!). I found the video and watched as Daryl-Ann and her mother (a very likable duo) show how to make vanilla extract and talk about my labels in the process.
I have to admit, I felt a bit starstruck. I acknowledged the silliness; a product of mine was shown on someone else’s Instagram page; big deal. Enter perspective. Still, this person had over 600,000 followers, and she included me in her little world. And in her world, when Daryl-Ann Denner says vanilla extract is a “Best DIY Christmas Gift,” her followers listen. In that first 24-hour period, there would be over 300 “cha chings” for vanilla extract labels. Since then, the total count has grown to 2,829 orders at the time of this writing (October 27th through December 29th). The total sales since originally releasing the item on January 1st, 2020 is 2,865, so a whopping 36 sales had occurred in the ten months prior to the product being featured.
I don’t believe any advertising could have yielded anything close to these results. So, that’s how I learned that – as the title of this post suggests – social influencers rule the world . . . or at least the small piece of the world in which they reign.
So how, as small business owners, do we benefit from this recognition? Obviously, I would love to replicate this success. And sure, it would be wonderful for another social influencer to simply stumble upon one of my products and decide to feature it, but I don’t think I’m lucky enough for lightning to just strike twice. I also don’t know if I have the ability to compel lightning . . . but I’m definitely going to try. I will be spending a good chunk of time researching and doing some trial and error of my own on the best ways to approach social influencers. If I come up with a winning combination, you will be the first to know! Stay tuned!
You can work to provide the best customer experience imaginable – sealing a rainbow and a hug with your perfect product in its perfect packaging – and you will still have the occasional unhappy customer. Sometimes, the issue is simply bad timing . . . a perfect storm in your customer’s life that culminates with your product underperforming in some perceived way (that’s more often a result of the person’s current frame of mind than actual underperformance). Sometimes, the fit isn’t a good one; the product or service isn’t what the individual expected (possibly even because he or she didn’t pay enough attention to the sales pitch or product specs prior to purchase). Regardless, one day you will be on the receiving end of bad publicity from an unhappy customer, and you’ll want to know the best way to handle the situation. Below are some different approaches with the selection of the right one dependent upon the specific circumstances of the bad press.
Sometimes, no response is the best response.
I have had a really hard time with this one in the past. It’s just so against my nature to not share my point of view. However, this approach can be the right choice when . . .
The customer discredits themself in the process . . . either by sounding a little crazy, exhibiting below average intelligence, or complaining about something that clearly isn’t the product’s fault. In other words, if your average person would read the quote, review, or feedback from the individual and not be convinced (for whatever reason) that your product was at fault, then just walk away. Your work is done. No input needed.
You have the potential to do more harm than good. Whenever you receive bad publicity, take a step back and try to look at the big picture. Does this negative press have the potential to negatively affect sales? If so, by how much? For how long? If the potential fallout is minimal, walk away. Count your losses and call it a day. Another important variable . . . how angry does this customer seem to be? When helping my son with his science homework recently, I was reminded by Newton that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction. If you counter your opposition, the chance always exists that they will find another way to strike back (especially if you’re dealing with one of those customers in the midst of that perfect storm in their life).
Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.
This route is my favorite. When you see a problem that has a solution, strive for resolution. Regardless of whether you saw the complaint on facebook, on yelp, or in your local newspaper, the approach is largely the same. Reach out to the customer, let the person know you saw their issue, apologize for the misunderstanding (usually one exists in these situations), and try to remedy the problem. Upon reaching happy conclusion, I never ask for the individual to undo their negative press. Simply apologize, fix the problem, and thank the person for giving you the opportunity to do so. The majority of the time, the person will not only undo the negative, he or she will rave about your customer service. However, do be prepared for the small minority of people who have had their issue resolved and do not undo their bad publicity. In those cases, you then need to decide whether the potential fallout is bad enough that you need to take further action. If so, read on.
Mitigate the damage.
Sometimes, your customer’s problem is unsolvable (or he/she is unmoved by your solution) AND the associated publicity does have the potential to substantially impact your business. In those cases, you need to act, BUT always approach these situations with great caution. If you choose to respond by providing a quote to the reporter doing the story or as a direct response in a public venue (facebook, yelp or other review web site, your product web page, etc.), be sure to do the following:
First and foremost, be respectful. Do not speak at all negatively about the person or situation. If you do, readers will empathize with the customer. They will picture buying your product, having a problem, and being spoken to in that same negative manner.
Apologize . . . carefully. Despite whether you feel you’re at fault, your customer feels he or she has been wronged in some way. You have a public victim. That said, you’re probably not looking to claim full culpability either, so choose your words carefully. Apologize: for the misunderstanding, for the terrible experience that’s been endured, etc. Don’t say, “I apologize that my product was the cause of a terrible experience for you.” The difference is subtle but important.
Address the situation directly. This is the time to share your side of things. Nicely explain the issue from your perspective. Your goal is for a potential customer to hear both sides and agree with you . . . or at least feel your fault is limited enough that they would still patronize your business. I dug up two examples for you of 1-star reviews I’ve received that I felt warranted a response.
Focus on increasing your positive publicity. Work to counteract the negative message that was conveyed. For example, if a customer’s complaint of faulty workmanship on her home got media attention, try to get press coverage on all the beautiful work your company has done. That could mean applying for some recognition in your field (annual awards, etc.), which could then be promoted. Another route would be to introduce a new guarantee on your workmanship, which could be publicized. If you’ve done a job that was unique or special in some way, you could try to pitch the story to a reporter as a feature. In my line of work, when a product gets a negative review that needs to be addressed, I send messages to other customers who have purchased the same product, asking if they would be willing to share their experience. During this pandemic (while sales were at their worst for me), I needed to take this step. Here was my message:
Hi there. I would like to personally thank you once again for your purchase. During these hard times in particular, the fact that you are purchasing products from small businesses means so much — to me and my family. So please accept my sincerest thanks.
An additional step that is very meaningful is leaving a review. IF you have the time available AND you were happy with your purchase, I would greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to write a positive review for the product. I think people often don’t realize how important an impact their voice can have — especially for a small business.
If you didn’t end up loving your purchase, please respond to this message and let me know. I can either help you troubleshoot or I can personalize your product for you (if applicable), and I can work to improve the product for future customers.
In conclusion, I sincerely hope you never have negative press. (For a good article on proactive prevention, check out Great Customer Service is a Zero Cost Strategy by Business Management Blog.) For the unfortunate though likely day that you do encounter an unhappy (and vocal) customer, I hope this article makes you feel a little more prepared. Have any questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you. Scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”