Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Eye of the Storm: Sales Reps vs. Grumpy Customer

Today was horrible. I was having a personal emergency and trying desperately to balance work deadlines at the same time.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was one of those everything-is-going-wrong, my-life-is-ruined, the-whole-world-is-against-me kind of days where your head is throbbing and your heart is racing and you just feel like you’re going to implode.

Those days happen to all of us every now and then. And even on those days, we will have to deal with solicitors, advertisers, and sales reps trying to gain our business and talking our ear off as if nothing in the world were more important to us than what they had to say, OR maybe they are taking their sweet time to respond to an email or phone call that seems like it could break your career if not handled in a timely manner.

These are the days where good customer service really matters. And I know that, for sales people, these are the days when it’s the hardest to be polite to a grumpy, hurried person over the phone or email. Sadly, today, I was this horrible person to deal with. I was short wiImageth the sales reps I spoke to, and with the marketers that called me during the very busy day.

Two interactions, though, really stood out to me. The first, with a lady from a bureaucratic institution that I called to help me resolve a personal matter. Though I tried to stay polite and calm in my state of emergency, she was immediately short with me, interrupted me often, and was quite rude. I’m sure I was cursing her in my head as soon as she started talking. My mood spiraled and if it was possible to become a tougher customer than I already was, then I did.

On the other hand, I had an urgent need to learn more about some promotional items for work. I emailed the sales rep I had talked to more than two months prior. He got back to me quickly, answered all my questions, and then followed up with a phone call. He waited by his phone as I continued to call back with more questions. Even though I was under intense pressure, I felt immediately grateful to him. I recognized that he deals with customers all the time that are probably just as picky and difficult as I was. Yet here he was, treating me as if I was his only customer. I was confident that he would handle my needs.

I hadn’t felt that way toward anyone all day.

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For a very brief few minutes, I felt as if everything was going to be OK. I was in the eye of the storm. And that moment of calm allowed me to regain my sanity and take on the rest of the day confidently.

Lesson to marketers (including myself): Because of that moment, I am about 90% morelikely to use that company in the future. And I will likely call that sales rep directly every time.

Today, the difficult, grumpy customer was me. Tomorrow, I could easily be the marketer on the other end of the phone, stuck talking to an unhappy and annoyed potential client. I hope I handle it as well as this guy did.

Have you ever talked to – or been – a disgruntled customer? How did you handle it, and what would you do differently?

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Client-based marketing: What’s in it for them?

Sometimes we all get stuck in a creative rut. With the small stresses each new day brings, it’s easy to get wrapped up in tasks and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s why every now and then, I like to refer to the “old greats” for inspiration.

stress-management-technique

Lately I’ve been revisiting How to Win Friends and Influence People, and one principle that’s really struck a chord with me  is “Arouse in the other person an eager want.”

Hmm. That’s obviously what most marketers are aiming to do when they reach out to clients or prospects, but how many of us are actually achieving that goal?

As you may know, in January I started working as Director of Communications at an architecture firm.  I recently received an e-newletter from a vendor that went something like this:

<Vendor Name>

Check out our website!

Hello!

We have an updated website!

Our workers are very experienced and take great pride in their work. We will be happy to give you a free estimate, so feel free to call us at <phone number> to schedule a time for us to bid.

<Pricing list>

We provide our customers with innovative materials…we offer quality installations…We are committed to enhancing your ability to achieve the goal of your building project through our desire to excel…

We would love for you to stop by our showroom. <Address and hours>

Sincerely,

<Respresentative>

My first reaction was to delete this email. They were asking me to visit their website, but why would I want to take the time to do that? I am too busy trying to figure out how to drive people to my own company’s website! And what will they have to offer that others don’t?megaphone

Lots of people say they have high quality products and good customer service. These things just look like empty brags.

Finally, in the last paragraph, they mention my needs, the “ability to achieve the goal of your building project” but even that is vague and they start right back into talking about their own desires for us to come visit their showroom.

So I started thinking, what does our newsletter look like? What do our proposals communicate? What messages are we sending our clients? While I am glad to say I think our messaging focuses on answering concerns of the client, I was able to think of ways that we could be even more client-centered.

Take a step back and look at your marketing message – your e-newsletter, your flyer, your website. What message are you sending? Is it focused on your company’s desires, or your clients’ needs?

After all, as humans, we are all focused on our own needs. No one is going to use my services or go to my website just because I tell them that I want them to. What value am I really offering? How can my business make things easier or more efficient or higher quality for them?

In an effort to keep this question at the front of my mind, I printed off this label and stuck it to the top of my work laptop (sorry boss!) 😉

Have a great weekend everybody!

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Superfriends and Business: The Beauty of Influencers and Strategic Partnerships

In almost every big, successful campaign I’ve worked on, there was one thing in common – strategic partnerships. The client had a message to get out, but did not try to go it alone.

wordofmouthThe thing is, people are bombarded with information and advertisements   almost everywhere they turn – commercials on the radio, billboards on the streets, TV ads, flyers, Google ads, Facebook promotions, banner ads, and more! Chances are, if you’re a small business with a message to get out, it’s going to be pretty hard to break through that noise – unless you’ve got a million-dollar budget to hire the Biebs to sing at your new store opening, or whatever it is you’ve got going on.

Well, where do we get our most trusted and valuable information? Word of mouth. So let’s think of people we know who are loud, and give them something to talk about. I should note, when I say “loud,” I don’t mean obnoxious or speaking at a high volume. I am referring to the influencers of society – the people with large networks who trust them and wait for their next recommendation (kind of like Oprah’s Favorite Things…what I wouldn’t give to have gone to one of those shows!)

Find someone who is loud, who cares about your message. Make them an ambassador of your brand, of your message. Help them help you. And then do it again. And again. And again. Maybe the loud friend in this case is not a single person, but another business, or five other businesses.

Check out the Fiskar’s story from Brains on Fire for my favorite case study of brand ambassadors, but here’s another example: If you are a frozen yogurt shop and you’re rolling out a line of healthy sorbets, why not throw a party? Why not invite health bloggers, and create a competition or event benefitting a cause worth caring about, like children’s diabetes?  Why not invite similar businesses, like gyms, bike stores, athletic

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stores, and others to come out and partake in the fun? Maybe they will all agree to give something away in a raffle. Now, that’s a lot to talk about. It’s a good cause, everybody benefits, and it has the potential to be a lasting movement rather than a one-time campaign. If you’ve created sorbets to help people make healthy

choices, let that be your business mission. Let that be your way of life. It will make your business more than just a business, to both you and your customers.

So, think about it. Who are your “superfriends?” What are the neighboring businesses or groups with which you have a good relationship that you can build on? Who are the customers or friends that talk about your business on social media, or recommend you to others? Who are the bloggers or reporters who are looking for your industry news?

If you look around, I bet you will find you have more ‘superfriends’ than you thought!

Can’t buy me love: Twitter adding services and PR ethics

It seems like every time I get on Twitter, I am bombarded with messages from sketchy “tweeps” inviting me to “gain 5,000 followers immediately!” by signing up for their services. I usually brush them off as spam, assuming such a service will give me some sort of horrible virus that will cause me weeks of headaches and a call or two to Geek Rescue.

Besides, even if the companies aren’t truly spam, I thought, isn’t buying followers still unethical? Social media is about engaging with real people, forming mutually beneficial relationships, and letting your connections grow organically through valuable conversation.

A few weeks ago, a client asked me to sign him up for one of these services.

His goal was not to immediately grow real, valuable followers, but to:
A) Appear more established at the first glance of a new potential follower – making them more likely to follow him, thus gaining more real, valuable followers, and

B) Increase the limit of friends Twitter allowed him to have so that he could add more real, valuable friends without being penalized – and hopefully, many of them would follow him back as well.

These seemed like reasonable expectations to me, so, still slightly apprehensive, I agreed. The client and I both felt that, at the very least, it would be a good learning opportunity.

After some research, I found there are basically two ways that these services work:

1. Mass following services (such as http://www.tweetadder.com/) follow a large number of users and let them follow your profile back. After a few days, they go back and automatically unfollow the people who have not followed you back. It has many bells and whistles but I’m fairly certain that Twitter penalizes users of these services.

2. Buying services (such as http://www.buy-followers.org/) that seem to have access to profiles of people who have opted into some sort of program. The cost is much higher per follower, but, supposedly, there are no “bots” involved. Some of

these services claim to bring in quality leads – users who have said they are interested in particular topics (so, hypothetically, if you’re a sales coach, and someone says they are interested in sales or business, you’re more likely to get that person.)

I chose a service like option number two and I have to say – although they turned out not to be “quality leads,” and some of their profiles are a little sketchy, (They might have a male Twitter name like @ChiTownDave and a profile that says “My name is Anna, I’m a nanny in the Dallas/FTW area!”) the client’s goals have been met.

What do you think? Is buying followers unethical PR practice, or a smart step toward reaching out to real, quality connections?

You Only Get What You GIVE

“I suspect that many corporations have begun to understand that they have an important role to play in the lives of their communities, and that allocating funds to support local groups helps them discharge that function and also burnish their image.” — David Rockefeller

During the holidays, we are constantly reminded of nonprofit organizations in our communities that need assistance. On a nationwide and global scale, we see big companies such as Pepsi giving good to causes.

Corporate giving is an old idea, but an important one.  Most of us will agree that it is “good” to be charitable, to donate, to do something philanthropic. However, many small businesses fall into the narrow mindset of thinking of giving as parting with their hard earned money for no ROI.

It is important when thinking about corporate giving to remember your end objectives. You may not see a spike in sales, but you could be creating an opportunity to:

  • Get people talking about your company
  • Cultivate prospects and nurture major client relationships
  • Talk about a new product or service

When you’ve decided that corporate giving is right for your business, here are the next steps:

1. Pick a cause you care about. What are your company values? What are your personal values? Pick something about which you can be passionate.

2. Pick something your target market cares about. Get them involved. Working together builds your relationship and makes them feel confident that your company shares their values.

3. Stick with it. Just writing a check is bland and expected. Once you have an organization that aligns with your values and mission and the values of your consumers, be dedicated to that group. Get creative. Run campaigns. Partner with your nonprofit on something. Give repeatedly. Nourish the relationship you have created with that group and let them and the public know you are serious about getting involved.

4. Integrate.  By combining your charitable donations with things like events, corporate sponsorships, employee volunteerism, marketing, advertising, and public relations dollars, your business will get a much bigger bang for its buck.

There are lots of fun, effective, and creative ways small businesses can give back. Helping a cause your customers and employees care about -– and one that is also relevant to your business -– can reap tangible and intangible benefits for your public image, your shareholders, and your community (via e-releases.com.)

This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.

Putting the “face” back in Facebook

(You can also access this post on the  Consumer Pulse Marketing blog.)

Have you seen that Toyota Venza commerical – you know – the one where the girl is worried about her parents’ social lives because of their lack of Facebook friends, when in reality they are out living life to the fullest?

As funny as it is, Toyota is pointing out a very common problem with social media.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are about sharing information and creating or maintaining relationships. In order to use a platform to it’s potential, you must remember that real, face-to-face interaction is key to developing those relationships.

The same is true for businesses. It doesn’t matter if you have a million followers if they are never going to come to your store – but if you connect with the right target audience, get to know who they are, where they are and what they value, and continue to develop your relationship with them, they are likely to seek you out when they need what you have to offer.

I encourage you to utilize your accounts in a way where you are getting as much as you can out of them. How can you do this?

1. Get involved. You know those pesky Facebook Events that are probably dominating your page? Go through them and ask yourself if maybe this event could produce some valuable connections for you, or help you reconnect with key people – because you are your brand.

2. Don’t sell, but be a friend and resource.  Many businesses join social media networks with no real plan, and simply use their accounts as a platform for promoting their goods or themselves. This is not social media. This is advertising. Would you walk into a picnic and start peddling your merchandise or bragging to your neighbors? And if you did, would they want to be your friend?

3. Help out. Would you like to get more involved with a group or partner with another organization? See what their needs are, and if there is anything you can do to help. Share their blog posts. Retweet their messages. Donate to their causes. Chances are, they will return the favor.

4. Be approachable. Make it easy for people  to reach you. Include your email, blog, website, Twitter name and Facebook profile on all your sites. Respond to those who reach out to you. In today’s world of technology, a living, breathing, interacting connection is a rare (and much appreciated) thing.

Social media is about building relationships – not staring at a computer screen or messing around on your smartphone all day – but getting in the loop and staying there. Going out and taking part in your community.

Is social media going to get you there all on its own? Probably not. But when utilized correctly, it can certainly help.