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How to Write Press Releases

How to Write Press Releases

Because I thought this would be useful and timely for members of The Santa Claus Conservatory I copied this from my Encore Entrepreneur Academy website & posted it here. 

Checkpoint:

  • You understand the difference between marketing and promotion.
  • You have created a list of creative promotion ideas for your business.
  • You have started to create a promotional plan for your business.

Create a media relations strategy for your business to harness the power of the media (and get free advertising!)

Just like your customer testimonials, the printed words of journalists have a stronger impact on your target market than anything you could put in a marketing brochure. An article in a newspaper, a story on the radio or clip on TV that covers your business or product in a positive light is worth at least four times any advertisement you could produce.

Unlike advertising, you can’t buy editorial space or make a newspaper write something positive about you. However, there is a specific way of communicating with the press and providing them with interesting, relevant story ideas about your business.

So how do you get your business in the news? Media relations is the practice of strategically informing and working with particular journalists about things that happen in and around your business. When done well, it results in balanced media coverage that appears in places your target market pays attention to – free advertising! When done poorly, you run the risk of negative publicity and damage to your reputation.

And how do you make sure your news is communicated accurately and consistently? Press releases are a key tool in any media relations strategy. They are the standard format for announcing, communicating with and correcting the media. Today I’m going to show you how to write them so that your news gets noticed and your story gets published.

In this E-Class we will cover:

  • The components of an effective press release
  • How to decide if your news is of interest to the media
  • How to write a press release
  • How to send a press release
  • Common mistakes to avoid

An effective press release gets the attention of the media and gets your story covered.

They make editors interested in your angle, and journalists want to write about your news. They are relevant to the community, the publication, and your business, and are written for the media in a standard format.

Press releases are just simple, one or two-page documents that don’t require any fancy design or formatting. They are concise, engaging and get to the point.

It’s important to remember that press releases are not sales letters, newsletters, brochures or advertisements. They aren’t designed to sell and they’re not written for your customer. They are written to communicate news to the people who write the news, and designed to get noticed amongst thousands of potentially competing messages.

Here’s how you write an effective press release:

1. Decide if your story is ‘newsy’ enough to send a news release.

Is it newsworthy?

Newsworthy stories are those that matter to the media’s target audience. If you’re not used to working with the media or writing press releases, think about this question carefully. You may care about what you have to stay, but will other people? Why will people care? Why will it matter to the media’s audience? Your story needs to be relevant, current, important and new. It needs to answer the five “W’s” (who, what, where, when and why).

Is there an angle?

Your story may be newsy, but it also needs to have an angle. An angle – or story idea – is something that makes what you have to say new or unique. Each press release needs at least one solid angle or story idea for the journalist. If the story is buried in the press release, it won’t get covered.

Your angle might be something that connects your news to something outside your office or business. For example, your news might be that your company has had a record year for profit, but the actual story would be how you managed to have a record year for profit during a recession. This would be relevant to business readers who could learn from your strategies.

Is it the right time for the story?

Timing is everything in the media – and for your business. Think about when you would want your story to run so it maximizes its impact on your audience. If your news is urgent you’ll want it to send it right away, while if you’re making an announcement or hosting an event, you’ll want to be strategic about timing.

This works both ways. There are certain times of year that are busier than others for certain media outlets. The volume of advertising in October through December means a lot of editorial space for print publications, and a higher chance of your story getting published. If the publication just ran a feature story on something similar to your news, you may position your announcement as an appropriate follow-up.

Is the story true?

Don’t even try to spin inaccurate or exaggerated facts – someone will find out. Journalists are trained to uncover the real story, and won’t assume everything you say is true. Double-check all your facts and sources for accuracy to avoid inadvertently sending out wrong information. This will damage your reputation and your relationships with journalists.

Who needs to know about your news?

Once you’ve established what your story is, decide who needs to know about it. Just like all other marketing initiatives, it starts with a solid understanding of your target audience. When you know who that audience is, you can focus on targeting the media who reach that audience and then write your press release for the journalists who work for those publications.

2. Write your press release in standard format and in a style that makes it easy for the media to understand your story.

Every press release should have a:

  1. Headline
  2. Dateline
  3. Lead
  4. Inverse pyramid format
  5. End indication
  6. Company description
  7. Media contact

Write a headline that will get noticed. You have seconds to catch the interest of the editor or reporter, so you need to do it with your headline. Your headline should describe the store and tell the reader why it matters or why they should care.

HOLIDAY SPRUCE OFFERS FREE CHRISTMAS TREE REPLACEMENT TO ALL RESIDENTS CARR’S CARPET CLEANING SWEEPS UP WITH BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD MOMS ON WHEELS TO DELIVER NUTRITIOUS MEALS AT SCHOOL THIS SEPTEMBER

Include a dateline. The first line of your release should start with a dateline – the date and location of the story. For example, “May 20, 2009, Vancouver, British Columbia – Body copy starts here…” This clearly tells the reader where the story takes place.

Spend time on the lead. The lead is the first paragraph of the news release, and just as important as the headline. If it doesn’t hook the reader, the rest of the copy won’t get read. The lead has to expand on the headline and answer the five “W’s” with enough detail to get the reader to read one. Spend the bulk of your time on the lead, drafting several different versions to evaluate which has the biggest impact.

June 29, 2008, Carwright, California – Attention busy moms: scratch lunches of your list. Moms on Wheels is expanding this September, providing daily lunch service for elementary school students with busy families. Parents can now subscribe to daily or weekly deliveries and trust that convenient, healthy bag lunches are arriving at their children’s classroom.

March 15, 2006, Bend, Oregon – You could say that Carr’s Carpet Cleaning Services truly ‘cleaned up’ this year; the local business was honored with an award in four categories at the annual Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. Carr’s Carpet Cleaning earned Employer of the Year Award, Story of the Year Award, Fastest Growing Business, and the prestigious Business of the Year Award.

December 20, 2007, Halifax, Nova Scotia – Holiday Spruce announced today that 75 percent of the Christmas Trees for sale at their Bend Street farm have been mistreated with a chemical component that may be dangerous if repeatedly inhaled or accidentally ingested. The Christmas tree farm is offering free removal and replacements for all families affected.

Use inverse pyramid format to structure your release. News articles and press releases are written in inverse pyramid (or triangle) format, with the most important information at the top. Less important and supporting information follows in decreasing order. Originally, this was so that editors could cut from the bottom when laying out stories on the page. Now, it is just standard practice.

Keep your language clear and simple. Write in a simple, clear style with minimal use of descriptive, flowery words and embellishment. Each word should have a purpose so you only use the space you need to tell the story.

Use facts to back up your claims. Back up what you’re saying with facts and quotes from trusted sources. Tell a story, but prove it’s true. Journalists need facts and confirmation from multiple sources, so show them you’ve done some of the work for them.

Keep industry jargon to a minimum. Make is easy for the journalist to understand your message and relay that message to their audience. Limit the amount of jargon you use, and when you need to use key phrases, make sure you provide clear explanations for those terms.

Quote key players, but use quotes sparingly. Quote a maximum of two sources in your news release to avoid cluttering the release or confusing the reader. Use authentic and concise quotes to back up facts, add personality and a new voice to the release.

Indicate the end of the release. Press releases require a symbol to indicate the end of the release. This is either “-30-” centered at the bottom of the page, or “Ends.” with a period, left justified.

Include a short company description. At the end of the press release, include a short description of the company or companies involved in the news. Limit this to a few sentences about who you are and what you do, but provide enough to give your story context.

Make it easy for journalists to contact you. Decide who will be the media spokesperson (or people) and provide as much contact information as possible so it’s easy for reporters to be in touch. Include names, titles, phone numbers (business and cell phone), email addresses and website addresses.

3. Create a list of people and publications you need to send your release to, and choose a distribution method.

Create a media database and target list.

Keep and maintain a database of local and regional media who cover news in your industry or publish for your target market. You can include both advertising and editorial contacts in this list, and use it for marketing and media relations purposes. If you advertise with several local publications, you can ask your ad rep which reporter or editor you should be in contact with.

There are a number of ways you can create this list – depending on the needs of your business and the size or scope of your market reach. If you operate a small business in a smaller city or town, you and your employees can easily create and maintain the list. If you operate in a bigger city, you may wish to enlist the help of a PR agency or online subscription databases.

Subscription services will customize lists for you on a one-time or yearly basis. These companies maintain the most up to date contact information, as well as list the contact details for freelancers who you may not otherwise find online.

Every list should include as much information as possible about each publication and each reporter or editor. Typically, editors and journalists will be responsible for specific “beats” or subject areas like crime, health, community, and business. You will want to make sure that your news ends up in the hands of the most relevant contact. For example, if you own a restaurant, you’ll be looking for the lifestyle or food editor.

Master Media Database
Outlet Name Type Contact Email Phone
Daily news Newspaper Jane Wong jwong@dnews.com 999.662.7878

Send your release via email.

The easiest way to send your release is by email. Remember that journalists are bombarded by press releases – they literally get thousands a day – so follow some of these tips to give it the best chance of being read:

  • No attachments. Paste your release in text format in the body of the email, and stick to simple formatting. Attachments get stuck in spam filters and run the risk of being deleted. If you need to attach small photos or a PDF, be sure that the bulk of the content is in text form in the email.
  • Your headline is the subject line. Use the power of your headline to get the email opened. It’s good practice to include the first name of your recipient in the subject line as well.
  • Write a personal note or pitch. Increase the chances of your story getting covered with a short introduction at the beginning of the email. If you have a long distribution list, do this for your top ten recipients. Use this note to hook the reader, show that your news is relevant or connect it to one of their recent stories.

Use a distribution service.

If you have a larger budget and are looking to distribute your news on a regional or national scale, or to a very targeted group of media, there are many distribution services you can use. Some distribution services – like prnewswire.com – will send your release out on the ‘wire’, which is a general channel for press releases that all media subscribe to.

Others – like ca.cison.com – maintain their own comprehensive databases of media across North America and the world. You’ll be able to customize your list to a specific group of editors, journalists, and freelancers. These companies also provide writing and editing assistance and can monitor the news to send you clippings of your coverage.

4. Make yourself available to respond to media inquiries.

Once you send your release, make sure that you or the contact you put on the release is available to take calls and answer questions.

You might consider including your cell phone number in addition to your business line and email so that media on deadline have easy access to the people they need to quote in the story. You want to make it easy for the reporter to cover your news, so be accessible and avoid playing phone tag.

Avoid these common press release mistakes, or your release will be in the trash before it’s even fully read.

  1. Grammar errors. Remember that your release will be sent to professional writers, so make sure it has been spell-checked and proofread for grammar and punctuation. Journalists and editors won’t spend time on poorly written releases riddled with spelling errors. If you need help, hire a professional writer.
  2. Too much information. Stick to the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why), and avoid going over two pages double-spaced. Press releases should be written to hook the reader and give them just enough information to want the story. When the reporter decides to cover your news, then you can provide them with more information.
  3. Too little information. On the other hand, you want to make sure that you provide enough information to support and illustrate the story. Include full contact details, source quotes, and facts to back up your claims.
  4. All recipients in the “To” field. If you’re sending your release via email, always use the “BCC” field for recipient’s email addresses. When you put addresses in the “To” field, competing publications will see each other on the list and may decide against running your story.
  5. Sent Monday morning. Journalist and editor’s inboxes are chock-full of press releases first thing in the morning – especially on Mondays. Send your release midday, and avoid calling or emailing reporters around their deadlines. A daily newspaper’s deadline is usually about 4pm, while weekly or monthly publications will have different schedules.
  6. Reads like an ad. Your press release should communicate relevant, newsworthy information to the journalist, whose job is to communicate the same to the public. It’s not an ad, so don’t write it like one. Avoid salesy copy and catchphrases, or the release will get trashed.
  7. Failure to get permission. You need to have permission from every person and company you mention in your release before you send it out. This includes permission from anyone in the images that you provide as well. Failing to do this may mean your story gets pulled at the last minute.
  8. Sent to multiple editors at once. Choose one editor at each news organization who would be most interested in your news, and send the release to them only. If they don’t have a use for your story, but think another editor would, they’ll pass on the release directly.
  9. Sent to every outlet in town. Only send your release to publications that are relevant to your news and could realistically cover the story. The AutoTrader magazine won’t have use for your restaurant news. Failing to do this shows you haven’t done your research.
  10. Same day follow-up. Avoid the urge to call editors or reporters the same day you send the release. They are inundated with releases, so it may take a day or two for them to read and respond to your release. Wait a few days, then pick up the phone and pitch them on your news idea.

Press releases can be highly effective marketing and promotional tools, but make sure to use them strategically.

Use press releases every once in a while, when you have something really newsy or exciting to share. Making contact with the media a few times a year is usually more than enough to get your business some attention without overdoing it.

Of course, this will depend on the type of business you have and the amount of newsworthy information you have to share. I’d just advise you to be conservative, and save your releases for the important stories.

Now, we’ve talked about customer acquisition costs and the 80/20 rule (80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers). Next week, I’m going to show you how to identify and keep your top clients and say goodbye to you difficult ones.

Until next time!

Blow ‘em Away Santa

First, by blow ‘em away I mean WOW ‘EM!!! Totally impress ‘em.

The “‘em” is your audience.

Within The Santa Claus Conservatory, I constantly emphasize the concept of being extraordinary and I strive to provide tips & strategies to help Santas & Mrs. Clauses consistently exceed the expectations of our customers and audiences.

BUT HOW DO WE DO THAT?

Well, here are 3 timely ideas.

When it comes to your audience members always remember the power of those little devices that nearly everyone has in their pocket… that’s right a phone!

I use my phone to show photos of Mrs. Claus, my elves & reindeer and me at the beach, etc. kids & parents love it!

These can be your own photos but they don’t have to be. Santas have told me they use reindeer photos they found online and some have had themselves “photoshopped” in.

You can get creative with this.

Another terrific use of the phone is to create Santa & or Mrs. Claus videos for children, parents, co-workers, people’s birthdays, etc.

One the reasons I say Toastmasters International is one of the best ‘schools’ for Santas & Mrs. Clauses is because it helps prepare us for those little ‘improv moments’ both in person and when making videos.

Of course, the traditional ‘selfie’ is also a lot of fun for children of all ages.

Using your phone, and the phones of the people you are interacting with, to add fun and value to your appearances can help you develop a reputation as an extraordinary Santa or Mrs. Claus.

 

Pre-Season Prep for Santa & Mrs Claus

Let’s talk a bit about the season ahead…

  • What toys are hot?
  • How will we answer questions?
  • What to expect at new Santa gigs?
  • Last minute marketing
  • Working with Mrs. Claus
  • BEING Mrs. Claus
  • Avoiding common mistakes
  • Staying healthy
  • Getting EXTRAORDINARY photos
  • And, much, much, more…

Login at ANY MEMBERSHIP level FREE – Platinum to access this session.

 

 

 

A Blast from the Past

The Santa Claus Conservatory is now 3 1/2 years old.

Check this out. From March 24, 2015. It’s the 1st video I posted on this website:

We now have 2,128 members worldwide with the VAST majority being FREE members.

I HUGE THANK YOU to our paid members, Platinum, Gold & Silver for helping to make this resource available.

FREE Members… now is a great time to upgrade. Click Here

Will This ‘Magic Bullet’ Improve EVERY Santa Appearance?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our Santa performances, appearances and personal inter-actions and I believe I may have identified the single most important thing we can do to improve every single interaction we have as Santa.

Is this the ‘secret’ to the “heart connection” between Santa Claus & everyone he interacts with?

See if you agree and please leave your comments below…

Could the magic bullet for improving Santa performance be RAPPORT?

rapport

[ra-pawr, -pohr, ruh-]

noun

A close and harmonious relationship in which the people understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

What is rapport?

In a word rapport is a connection.

Rapport is based on mutual confidence, respect, and acceptance. I believe enhance the magic & Spirit of Santa when we engage every person we interact with in a way that builds this heart to heart connection.

Of course, there’s no one way of establishing rapport. Each child (and adult) is unique and has individual characteristics that influence their ways of interacting.

Learning how to make an initial connection between Santa and the child is obviously important and there’s a bunch of literature demonstrating the importance of rapport for business people.

Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book “How to Make Friends and Influence People” lays out a series of very specific and practical “how to’s” for rapport building that I have used for decades.

Many of these were covered in last week’s training session- “Up Your Santa Game – Rapport

While establishing trust and gaining rapport can seem intuitive, it is not certain. In reflecting on my own experiences, my rapport with children and adults has been established in many different ways. Also, my ability to establish rapport has improved through the years, due, at least in part, to reflection when things have gone well or poorly.

Understanding the components of rapport, examining my experiences, and recognizing the obstacles to rapport helps me in my reflection.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity to the comfort level of a child is necessary to establish rapport.

One of the elements of rapport is commonality. When a child is timid or reserved and we are big and boisterous we lose commonality. The technique we want to employ is often referred to as “mirror & matching”, meaning to reflect back the behavior of the other person.

We also want to be sensitive to the language development of the child. I have asked children “What would you like for Christmas?” And “What do you want for Christmas?”

Many times, 4, 5 and even 6-year old children are confused by the word “like” in this context. The may like going swimming, or like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches… but their list for Santa doesn’t have what they would like, it has what they want.

I have found that asking questions can be a great we start establishing rapport.

Nonverbal Cues

In his book “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” Charles Darwin wrote in-depth about facial expressions and the way they serve as a universal communication system for people.

Nonverbal cues can give you keys to building and maintaining rapport.

Observing a child’s gait as they walk toward you, are they tentative or excited? Their fine and gross coordination can tip you off to possible disabilities or difficulties. Posture and quality & tone of voice will provide you with information you can use to establish rapport.

The environment is also a contributing factor to the ease with which rapport is built. If Santa is in a big throne sitting on a stage this can be intimidating.

Obstacles to Rapport

One obstacle to gaining rapport with a child is the level of anxiety in the child. This can be an issue with children of all ages, but it’s more common in young children.

Anxiety can reveal itself in many ways, including very subtle ways like frequent use of fillers, such as “ah”, slips of the tongue, repetitions, stuttering, and many others can be interpreted as signs of anxiety.

You can often help relieve the anxiety with expressions of empathy which can combat anxiety and provide the child with comfort in an unfamiliar situation. Acknowledge the child’s feelings without minimizing them.

How to Improve Your Rapport Building Skills

In addition to Gold & Platinum level sessions on this topic, I highly recommend reading or listening to Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I also recommend Tony Robbins’ book “Unlimited Power”. Joining Toastmasters International is another terrific way to work on build this and many other skills that can help you become an even more extraordinary Santa Claus.

What do you think, is the ability to establish rapport the magic bullet for all Santa performances?

Please leave your thoughts below…

Take Your Santa VISIT Skills to the Next Level

What can you do to improve our Santa portrayal this season?

See if this holds true for you…

I became a Santa Claus portrayal artist because I loved how I felt, and how I made others feel when I appeared as Santa.

My decision to portray Santa was based on an emotional connection & response. Does that make sense to you?

In my ongoing quest to improve my Santa portrayal, I discovered the importance of COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

“UP YOUR SANTA COMMUNICATIONS GAME” Gold & Platinum members login to register.

Very rarely do I ‘perform’ as Santa Claus. I don’t do stage shows. I don’t do magic or twist balloons.

At perhaps 30 to 50% of my visits I tell stories (very short 3 to 5 minutes stories), I read a book and/or sing some Christmas songs… none of these things do I do as a ‘performer’ I do them more as a grandfather, pretty much how I would do them with my own family.

Does that make sense?

Here’s an approximate breakdown of my in-person appearances:

  • I’ll work a few days in malls
  • I’ll do 30-40 home parties
  • I’ll do 30-40 company parties
  • I’ll do a few of Tree Lightings & parades (and visits with children after)
  • I’ll make appearances at a few schools & churches
  • I’ll do a few ‘Breakfast with Santa’ events
  • I’ll do some in-studio & on-location photo shoots with families
  • I’ll do some ‘sneak-a-peeks’ and Christmas morning visits

My COMMUNICATION SKILLS will be used in 100% of these appearances.

Join this session to learn skills & techniques “Up Your Santa Communications Game”. You will learn tips to help establish rapport, increase engagement, interpret non-verbal communication, listening, wit, improv, and more.

This is a GOLD & PLATINUM Member session. Login & Go to your Hub Page to register.

Free Santa Claus School

This training session for Santas & Mrs. Clauses covers specific things you can do to:

  • Have more fun
  • Have greater impact
  • Increase your income

LOGIN TO WATCH THIS SESSION

Attendance at the live session is limited to 100. All Santas & Mrs. Clauses who register will also receive a link to watch the video replay of the free Santa Claus school training session.

This free session is sponsored by the Gold & Platinum members of The Santa Claus Conservatory.

Getting That Elusive ‘Perfect Picture’ with Santa

In 2011, after 7 seasons of being a “volunteer Santa”, I decided to try my hand at being a professional “paid” Santa.

Santa Tim Connaghan hired me for my first 3 real professional Santa jobs. The first 2 were in Medford, Oregon doing ‘photo work’ at the local Walmart & Sears portrait studios.

In my 7 seasons, I had posed for thousands of photos… but these were all FREE photos. The photographer and I were volunteers and there was no cost for the photos. This was the first time people were actually going to PAY to have photos taken with me. 

I’ve been blessed with a nice smile that I’ve received compliments on since grade school, and as a professional speaker and with a long career a sales & marketing I was accustomed to smiling and projecting a nice image. I also received many, hundreds, of compliments about my earlier Santa photos… but still, now people were going to be paying for studio portraits with Santa… I felt I needed to up my game

During my years as portraying Santa I had modified the traditional say “CHEESE” when having a photo taken to the more seasonal, say “Candy Cane”, which was fun and actually worked pretty well, but in the preparation material I received from Tim I was given a new tip.

Instead of saying and having the children say the traditional “cheese” Tim suggested using the word “Yeah!” (yeah – ye(ə) exclamation & noun. Nonstandard spelling of yes.)

As it turns out when we say “Yeah!” our mouth naturally forms a smile shape. Try it.  Say  Yeahaaa!

It’s a great tip… it does help get better photos!

That got me thinking about what else I could do to improve the photos.

I started practicing my smile. I made a greater effort to keep my mustache groomed up and off my upper lip. I ‘tested’ dozens of hand & head positions until I found “looks” that I liked.

Since learning this tip from Tim, and becoming more aware of other ‘smile words’ & poses 8 years ago, I’ve had the unique privilege of being in many photoshoots, some with world-class photographers taking photos for print ads, shooting videos & commercials and these “techniques” have served me really well.

I’ve also found that practice REALLY helped me improve. (Imagine that.)   🙂

By taking selfies and videos on my phone and webcam and then really giving them a critical examination, and showing them to others and getting their opinions, I have found many little things that have improved both my appearance and the appearance of my photo partners.

If you’re a Gold or Platinum member now is an excellent time to review the session on working with professional photographers and photo studios with Santas Cliff Snider, Marty Jorgenson & Patrick Faulds.

Working with photographers and photo studios is a great way to have even more fun, and earn more money, portraying Santa.

How Get Powerful Reviews/Testimonials for Your Santa Business

The words of happy customers can bring about amazing increases in ‘conversion rates’.

This is a slightly ‘re-purposed’ post from my website- https://encore-entrepreneur-learning-center.com it’s more business-oriented than many of my posts but it’s also very applicable to our Santa businesses.

Think about the last time you were looking to hire a contractor or some type of professional for a service. Or, say, the last time you were about to purchase an expensive item.

Who did you consult with before making your decision? Did you ask a friend or colleague for recommendations? Did you consult a consumer report about the expensive item’s performance?

Just like you and I, most people would. You see, word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there. Buyers want to confirm that they’re making the right decision by hearing about positive experiences from other buyers and friends.

As a business owner, you can use testimonials or reviews to harness the power of word of mouth marketing. Reviews will help alleviate concerns in the hiring process. Potential customers weighing their purchase decisions will have more confidence knowing that someone else has had a positive experience or seen the promised results.

A strong review program will you help you get more and better bookings. Sound good?

In this little mini E-Class we will cover:

  • How reviews boost conversions
  • How asking for reviews can boost repeat business
  • Types of reviews
  • How to get reviews for your Santa business
  • What makes reviews ‘good’ or credible

The presence of reviews in your marketing materials and on your website will increase your conversion rate (the percentage of potential customers those who actually book you).

Your conversion rate is directly related to your ability to build immediate trust with prospective clients. When you use reviews some of this work is already done for you.

Reviews tell prospective customers about the opinions and experiences of other buyers, which builds trust, establishes credibility and reduces perceived purchase risk.

  • Trust: People have an inherent skepticism towards marketing material and it takes time to build trust and rapport with prospective buyers. Reviews build trust because they come from third party, unbiased sources.
  • Credibility: Reviews show that you have been in business for a while and that you have a base of happy customers. This sends a positive message about the quality of your products or services.
  • Perceived Purchase Risk: Another person has hired you, and been satisfied or pleased with the results, so the risk involved in the purchase seems lessened.

The process of gathering reviews naturally encourages repeat and referral business.

Clients who give reviews generally stay loyal to your product or service and will tell their friends and family about it.

Happy customers will be returning customers. However, when a customer shares an opinion or an experience and attaches their name to it, there is an added sense of loyalty created. They’ve publicly declared that they’re a supporter of the product or service in question and will back up that decision if questioned.

When you ask a customer for a review, you’re also asking them to contribute to the growth of your business. Customers who feel they are helping you out will feel a sense of both pride and loyalty to your product or service.

Reviews are also great indicators of word of mouth marketing. If a customer has taken the time to tell you about their positive experience or commit it to writing, they’ve also shared it with their friends. This verbal chain of reviews acts as an informal referral strategy and will boost your referral business

There are 3 different types of reviews you could potentially use to market your Santa business:

  1. Customer: Of course, the strongest and most believable reviews will be one from a satisfied customer. When you use good customer reviews, you should expect to see strong spikes in qualified leads and sales.
  2. Expert Organization: A relevant and credible group or association in your area can offer strong reviews that will carry weight with prospective buyers. The chamber of commerce, a trade organization or a not-for-profit are some examples.
  3. Press: The media’s opinion can also act as a strong review. A reporter’s positive review of your service is an unbiased opinion, so it is likely to be trusted by prospective clients. (I’ve shown you how to use the press to get free publicity in our Gold Member sessions).

Here’s how you can start to gather credible reviews for your marketing strategy.

1. Create a system for requesting, collecting and organizing reviews.

Once you get rolling with your reviews acquisition program, you’re going to need a place to organize and store reviews, as well as to track which customers you’ve asked and which you’ve received from.

I recommend creating a list of all of your customers and indicating next to each which you have received reviews from, which you have asked for reviews, and which you should plan to ask for reviews.

Then, create a filing system or binder for organizing and managing reviews. You can sort them by date, customer last name, or category (Home Visits, Company Party, Not-For-Profit, etc.). Just be sure it is easy for you to find them when you need to. This is going to be an ongoing part of your marketing campaign, so prepare for a large number of reviews when you’re setting up your system.

2. Read incoming mail and email for unsolicited reviews.

Create a folder or system for keeping reviews that come in on their own – unsolicited ones. Any kind of customer feedback or thank you could be a great review to use, so include them in your organization system.

You may need to go back into your files, or your inbox, to locate the feedback and reviews you read but hadn’t used or separated. As long as you get permission from your customer, any review – old and new – is potentially a good one.

3. Start by asking your best customers for reviews.

While you may see a nice number of reviews float in through the mail and email, you will have to work for the majority of your reviews. You will have to ask for them.

Start with a list of your customers and choose the best 10 – 20%. These are your best customers, and a great place to start requesting reviews.

Use the reviews request letter template in the Marketing section of the Gold Member’s only section as a guide for creating your request letter. Be sincere, and encourage the customer to write their own letter instead of you drafting it for them.

Feel free to make general suggestions about what you would like them to write about, but try not to control the process. If you’re comfortable doing so, when you see what they have written make some suggestions or request certain sections be strengthened or more specific.

4. Make requesting reviews a part of your relationship building process.

Once you’ve “caught up” on your reviews requests, and asked your top customers for a few thoughts and opinions, you can create a system for ongoing review collecting. These reviews will be “solicited” as opposed to “unsolicited.”

The most important point here is to ask for a review as soon as possible after your Santa appearance. The longer you wait, the less inclined the customer will be to put the effort into writing their thoughts down. Besides, most customers are the happiest and most willing to help immediately after they see you being their Santa Claus.

  • Ask for the review. If a customer is glowing and gushing with praise, ask them to put it in writing, on letterhead if they have it. Tell them that it would really help you (your customers will love to help!) and that you value their feedback. If they’re not gushing, but you know they’re happy, be bold and ask them if they would write down what their experience was with your business. Stay on top of your reviews gathering and ask as soon as possible.
  • Get all their contact details. Get all your customer’s contact details you can follow up and have them send you their letter or review. The act of giving you their contact information will also establish a sense of commitment, and it will be more likely that they’ll follow through.
  • Tell them when you’re going to follow up. You don’t want to be a pest, but if you don’t follow up you may never get that review. Tell them when you’re going to be in contact to retrieve their letter or email. If you’re going to email them in a week or call them in a few days, let them know what your plan is.
  • Offer to write the first draft. This is a last resort strategy for customers who don’t write their own. Remember the reviews written by real customers are the most believable, so try not to offer this up front. If your customer suggests this, try to encourage them to write their own brief notes. If that doesn’t work, brainstorm some of their ideas, and then write it yourself. If possible try to have it printed on their letterhead and signed… although nowadays emails are fine too.

5. Always ask your customers for permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials, and don’t forget to say thank you.

Thank your customer for their reviews, and use that opportunity to gain their permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials – including your website, brochure, ads, and anywhere else.

Be sincere in your thanks, and if appropriate send a full letter or email (templates are available in the Gold Member’s only section of the site). Thank them for their time and their kind words, and anything else you may notice about their efforts.

You will want to gain permission from customers who send you solicited and unsolicited reviews. The easiest way to do this is to send a “blanket release” that allows you to use their comments – in part or in whole – in all current and future materials. This way you won’t have to ask each time you want to run an ad, or send a direct mail campaign. You’ll already have permission.

What makes a ‘good’, credible or useable customer review?

Length.

Don’t be afraid to use long reviews, they’re more believable than short ones. Too often businesses like to use one-word reviews in quotations because they’re easy to “sprinkle” all over their marketing material. For example, “…amazing!…”, “…couldn’t believe it…can’t wait to see the next one!”, or “hilarious…wonderful!”.

When a review is super short, your readers will suspect that they’ve been edited to sound positive and that the “…” are masking neutral or negative comments. Be sure to give at least a full sentence, if not two or three, to really let the reviews illustrate the message.

AUTHENTIC! EXCEPTIONAL! PROFESSIONAL!
We had Santa Ed and Mrs. Claus at our world record attempt for the most snowmen built in an hour. We had 800 employees and 400 kids and Santa and Mrs. Claus were a hit with everyone one of them! They engaged the kids and adults alike! We will not hesitate to use them in the future!

Carol Lynch
Mattel Toys
El Segundo, CA

It’s longer and won’t squeeze in as easily in a brochure or small ad, but it will have a much stronger impact on the target audience.

Detail.

Get specific, detailed reviews whenever you can. Ask your customers to provide as much color and description about their experience, and speak to any minuscule aspect they may have been impressed by.

Specific reviews are better than vague or typical-sounding reviews. Too often when you receive a review, you skim through it looking for the summary line that paints your business in the best light, like “We were thrilled with our experience.” This leaves questions in the readers’ mind, like “why?”, “when?”, “what was your experience all about?” and “what thrilled you?” If it only says, “Best service in town,” how will the reader’s know what makes it the best service in town?

The strongest reviews share specific information and paint descriptive pictures or tell stories that engage the reader. They mention points about your Santa visits that matter to other prospective customers, as well as describe the problems they were having before they found you. Detail will help the reader relate to or identify with the satisfied customer’s struggles and frustrations that have been solved by hiring you to be their Santa Claus.

Honesty.

Don’t try to edit or “polish” the reviews you receive from customers. Punctuation and grammar errors contribute to the believability of the statements.

Also, be cautious when editing the reviews for brevity or when cropping statements from a letter or long email. Remember that the customer signed off on you using their words verbatim, so make sure you do. Small edits could change the meaning of the sentences, which could upset customers when they see their names in print.

Attribution.

Back up each reviews with a clear, specific description of who said it, and where they’re from. Attributing statements to vague names like “T.M in Oregon” or “Jim F, Small Business Owner” will dramatically reduce the believability of your review. People are naturally skeptical and will be more likely to believe testimonials that don’t attempt to conceal the identity of the author and include more than the first name.

Attribute each quote to a person’s full name, city, state, and (if relevant) their business name and job title. For example, “Christopher Ford, Seattle, WA” or “Tim Wilson, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Owner of Fancy Meat & Deli Ltd.” The more detail, the more chance of a prospective customer recognizing the name or business and trusting the statement.

Location is important. Because you have a local business, prospects may look to see that others in the community have been pleased with your service. If you happen to serve a national or international market, you can use reviews to show your client reach.

If you have a review from an expert (like a doctor or business leader), be sure to include their credentials to make the most of their endorsement of your business.

It may also be helpful to include the company’s website address, especially if your business markets to other businesses. This is also a nice gesture of thanks to the person who gave their review, since it may encourage your customers to visit their site.

Picture proof.

An image of the customer who wrote the reviews will enhance the impact and believability of the words. The statement is enlivened by the image, and thus carries more validity and impact.

Videos & Audio reviews are also highly effective. Consider asking customers if they would contribute their reviews on video or audio recording, and then use that clip on your website.

Ask customers if you can take a picture of them to accompany their words, and take a few simple shots yourself so you have a few to choose from.

If you’re going to go to the effort of collecting reviews, do what you can to make sure that they’re credible ones you can use.

At the end of the day, asking for a review is often like asking your customers for a favor. While you want to make sure their reviews is detailed and specific and all the things that make it credible, there’s a limit to what you can ask for, and that’s okay.

Sometimes you’ll get two-line emails, and other times you’ll get five-page letters. Work with what you can gather, and remember that reviews are always most believable when they’ve been written organically by the customer.

By the way, I’ve been doing this for a while. Here’s a letter I received in 2008 for an event I did in 2007…

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