Customers are increasingly wary of companies and brands they aren’t sure they can trust. According to research by Edelman, 67% of people surveyed agree that “a good reputation may get [them] to try a product, but unless [they] come to trust the company behind the product, [they] will soon stop buying it.”
Carla Meine is an entrepreneur with an amazing track record. Her company was one of the Top 100 fastest-growing companies in Utah for five years. She ran one of Utah’s top 10 women-owned businesses for nine years and won Utah’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
In 2007, Carla Meine and her husband began running a small weight loss company named IdealShape. She implemented innovative credibility marketing strategies that helped transform the business to $60 million in annual revenue.
4 IdealShape Credibility Marketing Strategies
Here are some strategies Carla used to create and market through trust:
1. Great Customer Service
“One-third of Americans have used social media to complain about a brand or its customer service.”
While Carla owned IdealShape, they put a strong emphasis on customer service. They strived to get their products to customers within two or three days. They quickly replied to comments and posts in their Facebook groups and monitored comments, making sure things never got ugly. When a customer was dissatisfied with their products, they provided refunds and did everything they could to make their customers happy.
Doing all of these things produced a loyal group of customers who felt that the company really cared about them. It made them feel listened to and appreciated. IdealShape built up their loyalty with these customers to the point where the customers started defending them against anyone who complained in the Facebook groups.
When their company sold, the new owners didn’t put as much emphasis on customer service. They let go of employees who worked in customer service and/or managed the Facebook groups. As a result, they couldn’t foster that community in the same way and sales declined.
“You really don’t get credibility marketing if you don’t do a great job with customer service.”
– Carla Meine
2. Use Facebook Groups to Create a Space Where Customers Feel Comfortable Sharing their Experiences
While at IdealShape, Carla helped create the Ship Shape Challenge, a competition that leveraged Facebook. Customers would post their “before and after” weight loss pictures and stories, showing off the results of IdealShape’s products. Then the person who received the most votes could win a cruise.
This contest got people to share their posts on social media in hopes that more of their friends and family would vote for them. It resulted in a lot of exposure for the company. Eventually, the customers asked for a private Facebook group, which the company promptly created.
Carla and the company recognized the value of these private Facebook groups as customers felt more comfortable posting in this community where people had similar experiences. The group members were connecting with members of their tribe. Because of this, IdealShape started promoting their general Facebook page to everyone who bought their product. After they befriended customers there, they invited them to the private group. In the private group, customers could see positive reviews of different IdealShape products from group members, which helped give credibility to those products.
3. Utilize Influencers to Accelerate Reach and Credibility
Some people try to get influencers to give them promotions for free. This can sometimes give a one-time increase in revenue, but it is not a sustainable strategy. Influencers today generally don’t work for free, and they will especially not continue to do so. When we pay influencers fairly, it can help us establish long-term win-win relationships with the influencers.
After IdealShape started their private Facebook groups, they needed people to help manage them. So, the company reached out to influencers and hired them to do exercise videos while managing a private group.
The people who watched the exercise videos created by the influencers would join the Facebook groups, and from there they were encouraged not only to join in the community but to buy more of the products shared in the Facebook groups. The use of influencers doubled the company’s revenue from $20 million to $40 million. Then, they added another $20 million the next year, reaching $60 million in annual income.
4. Create an Environment Where Employees Feel Trusted and Accountable, but Not Controlled
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said, “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”
In the 1990s Carla was the CEO of one of the first large remote call centers. Back then, working from home was almost unheard of in the call center industry. Now especially, working from home is often necessary, but many companies are struggling to effectively manage their teams remotely. Carla’s business systematized accountability, through which employees could receive much more freedom.
IdealShape told their employees that as long as their stats stayed the same or went up, they could work from home. If their stats went down, supervisors would call the employee and tell them to come work in the office so the supervisor could help them get their stats up. This resulted in natural accountability, and the employee could have the freedom to work from home as long as they met their metrics.
Employees followed their metrics closely and knew when their metrics were down before the supervisor called. Because the ground rules were laid out from the beginning, the employees knew what would happen. The employees felt trusted that the company allowed them to work from home. Thanks to this systematized accountability, the call center team was able to have the freedom of working from home. Furthermore, with this system of accountability, the team was more effective from home than they had been in the office with all of the distractions.
“Because you trusted your employees, you got more productivity out of them. Because you created a trusting environment instead of a controlling environment, you actually had much greater success.”
– Nathan Gwilliam
Recurring Revenue Streams
Through her experience, Carla has also realized that it is easier to build a trusting relationship with an existing customer than to market to find a new customer. At IdealShape, they realized they needed to do some type of automatic shipping program to generate more recurring revenue. So after a customer would purchase the first package, the company would follow-up with them when they were close to running out of the product. In the follow-up email, they would offer them a really good deal, such as 20% off their next purchase and free shipping. The company was then extremely flexible with all future orders, making sure to treat their customers right. The average customer would accept the deal and stay for eight to nine months.
Diversifying Revenue Streams
Another monetization strategy Carla used with IdealShape’s customers was diversifying their revenue streams. A customer typically came to them because they heard about how great their shakes were. The company kept these customers coming back by constantly releasing new products such as new shake flavors, new supplements, and new flavors for meal replacement bars. Carla noticed their sales would go up every time they released a new product or flavor, so the company made a goal to release four or five new products a month.
Connect with Carla
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Carla or connect with her, you can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmeine/
Thank you Carla for sharing your stories and experiences. Here are some of my key takeaways from today’s episode:
1. Find the right motivation for your customers to share their experiences with other customers like them, such as IdealShape’s cruise for the winner of the Ship Shape Challenge.
2. Use influencers to bring in a lot more customers and help build credibility.
3. Be willing to pay influencers. This will help turn one-time influencer deals into long-term influencer deals.
4. Customer service is one of the most important ways to build credibility. Take care of customers with every interaction to keep them coming back.
5. Create a trusting environment rather than a controlling environment for employees.
6. Systematize accountability so that employees can enjoy more freedom.
7. Create recurring revenue streams. It is easier to keep current customers than advertise to find new ones.
8. Diversify revenue streams by giving customers add-ons and new products to improve customer lifetime value.
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If we desire monetization we have never before achieved, we must leverage strategies we have never before implemented. I challenge each of us to pick one thing that resonated with us from today’s episode and schedule a time this week to implement it to help achieve our monetization goals.
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