The vast majority of organizations don’t do customer service properly. Without a great customer service strategy, you end up being retroactive in how you deal with customers. The smart companies understand that if they first delight, impress, or go out of their way for their customers, they will have to do a lot less apologizing.
Proactive > Reactive
Sam Walton said it best, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Instead of the putting out fires when they arise why not give your staff the training they need to do their job to the best of their ability.
Too often we blame marketing for poor sales, or we make excuses as to why people don’t like our product or to frequent our establishment. Before you jump to the conclusion of whose fault it is, maybe for a change look at how you approach customer service.
Do your employees get adequate training when they start?How do you know?
Do they receive more training once they have experience on the job?
What do your customers think of your customer service? Do you ever ask them?
What if you incentivized your customers to help improve your customer service?
Who has the best in class customer service in your category? If it’s not you, why not?
What company do you look up to as a leader in customer service outside of your industry? What can you learn from them?
Is customer service a priority to all levels of management and employees at your company? Be honest…
If you’re always more excited to work/meet with the other person, they’re sure to have a great time meeting/working with you. When you go to a restaurant and a server is happy, it’s contagious, the same goes for when you meet with someone. If you’re happy and have a positive outlook on things, it’s difficult for others not to have the same view. As the song goes… don’t worry, be happy.
There are only two reason why people go online; to either solve a problem or to entertain themselves, nothing else.
Think about it, you never just “waste time”, you’re solving a news, banking, work, vehicle, or home related problem or you’re entertaining yourself. Gossip sites, games, the news, all forms of entertainment. Twitter can be both, entertaining and solving a problem. Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, are mostly entertaining but can solve problem for us. E-mail newsletters for the most part don’t solve a problem, neither do they entertain, hence why average open rate for e-mail newsletters is dismally low.
Every time you come in contact with any brand, company, or organization you either like it a little bit more or like it a little bit less, the feeling is never completely neutral. The majority of these impressions (feelings) come from your sub-conscious mind, which makes it difficult to understand why you feel the way you do about some brands. Just assume everything is marketing.
They way the flight attendant smiles at you gives you an impression of the airline.
The way a hostess open the door at a restaurant changes your impression of the establishment.
The way the cashier talks to you while making a purchase changes your impression of the store.
The font you use on doors in your office changes our impression of your company.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a marketing tactic will continue to grow in importance for any company who’s growing their online presence. If immediately you say “oooh but Jeph, we live in Regina, Saskatchewan, SEO doesn’t work here! I’ma git me another bus bench ad!” I truly feel sorry for you, you may leave now.
As for those of you who want to learn more about SEO and need a place to start, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are 17 of the most helpful articles, video and inforgraphics on search engine optimization, please add your favorite in the comments below.
1. A good start will be with definitions, learn the new words that you’re going to hear in boardroom SEO conversations, now you’ll actually know what people are talking about when they reference your internal link structure and you can answer like the shmarty pants you are.
12. A great read on different SEO tactics and their effectiveness. Link bait, infographics, how to’s, there are a lot of options out there, this post simplifies how and why you’d create different types of content on your site.
Today, every man, women, child, company, not-for-profit organization or any public entity, all have the freedom to create whatever they want and publish it online. Think about it for a minute.
Everyone is a media outlet.
Ten years ago, there were too many hurdles to jump through before you could get your own website. Today, a site can be developed as fast as your hosting company can get you on to their server. We’re talking hours, not months, weeks, or days. On Twitter and Facebook you can have an audience within minutes of signing up.
When something that’s traditionally been expensive, like communication to an audience, becomes incredibly inexpensive (almost free) inevitably more people will utilize it. That means there will be a lot of unintentional communication (more noise than signal). Companies begin communicating without understanding the repercussions and soon will alienate their past and potentially future customers. It happens on Facebook daily, updates that don’t solve a problem or entertain, just useless noise.
Here’s my warning.
Have you seen the Unsubscribe button on Facebook?
With one click, any one of your “friends/people” who like your page can silence everything you publish. That’s just Facebook.
Filters on e-mail allow anyone to block your address if you’re sending them e-mails they don’t want.
Twitter’s the easiest, they can just simply unfollow you.
Remember, everyone’s a publisher now, if you or your company are trying to communicate something to an audience, it better be anticipated, engaging, relevant, timely, helpful, or entertaining. If it’s not, no one is going to listen and you’re wasting your time.
Maybe it’s time to revisit your communication strategy.
In the business community, unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Jim Collins. He wrote the classics, Built to Last with Jerry Porras (on the best seller list for 6 years), followed up by Good to Great (sold over 2.5 million hard cover copies) and How The Mighty Fall (didn’t do nearly as well as his first two).
Collins’ latest master piece might be his best work yet. Written with Morten T. Hansen, they teach lessons by telling riveting stories and relating them back to the various principles about the great companies profiled. One of the best written business books that gives you concepts, based on research, that you can implement in your business. I couldn’t put it down at times, the stories they share keep you glued to the book chapter after chapter. You’re learning through narrative. You can tell Collins’ is really honing in on his writing skill. By far the best book he’s written yet.
Below are the most important concepts you’ll learn in the book:
Unless your product or service is so in demand that business just falls into your pretty little lap, then you probably don’t need a marketing strategy.
So to the 90% of businesses that DO need a strategy here’s a framework to help you.
First you must understand your company’s “why”. Why do you exist? Why do you sell products or services? Remember, people rarely buy your product for “what” it is, they more often buy products for the why behind it. If you can identify “why” a company exists it’s much easier to understand “how” they can help potential customers and “what” their product needs to include.
“We are the lowest cost, no frills airline.” -South West Airline
“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” – Google
“Invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of the people around the world.” –Cirque Du Soleil
“To provide the best customer service possible.” – Zappos
“Every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” -Starbucks
Once you have established your “why” you must then set a bhag, a big hairy audacious goal. Jim Collins first mentioned this concept in Built to Last, in the context that the visionary companies who were in fact built to last, had a major goal in mind that would seem, for the most part, unattainable.
That’s the weird thing about goal setting, no matter how far out the desired outcome may be, these companies were resilient in trying to achieve these goals.
Does your company have a BHAG? Why not? A BHAG shows a company has a long term outlook, that they aren’t just around to make a quick buck, that they actually care about how they grow.
Sam Walton set a BHAG for Wal-mart that they still haven’t achieved yet. Key word in that sentence is “yet”. I have no doubt in my mind that they one day will.
How, What, Who, When
Once you have your BHAG set you’ll have an idea of the direction of where the company is going. Now you must determine how you’re going to achieve it. What your short term objectives will be. Who your target audience will be (no it can’t be everyone). And when you can begin implementation.
Gone are the days of the “master strategy” you must have objectives to be moving towards but any detailed planning past a year is useless. Things change, industries shift, and the only thing you can guarantee is that change will occur. Being ready to pivot and to adapt means you have an intimate knowledge of your customers and you’re always trying to provide them with more value. It’s your loyal customers that will be the gasoline to your firestorm of growth.
Tactics: Awareness, Purchase, Experience
As Jim Lecinski points out in “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” you must understand the complete purchase cycle of your customers. From awareness of your product to comparison and consideration. If the product holds up after research (ZMOT) you will move on to purchase (FMOT). Once the item or service is purchased the experience (SMOT) will be a part of the marketing mix because the service it’s self can influence repeat purchases and/or spreading the newly found delight to social circles on and offline.
It’s naive to think a little big of advertising here and there will suffice anymore. You have the option to strategically breakdown what stage your potential customers are at in the purchase cycle and deliver them an anticipated, valuable, dare I say, enjoyable message to help make their decision easier.
Yes, fine-tuning your website will satisfy the zero moment of truth but what about the first and second moments of truth? Are you taking advantage of every stage in the purchase cycle?
Product, Price, Place, Promotion. They’re dead. Though I can’t take credit for their annihilation, John Jansch talked about it in The Referral Engine. The 4 Ps is what you were taught in Marketing class in University five years ago, from the text book that was five years old, based on cases that were 10 years old. Hell of an education it was!
The four Ps are dead, enter the four Cs:
Content, Context, Connection, Community
But first, the funeral.
It’s no longer wise to focus a large portion of your time on your “Product”, as the Innovators Dilemma points out, companies rarely develop a product on the first iteration, usually not even on the second adaptation but more likely on the third try. Instead of focusing on the perfect product, develop your product quicker and seek out feedback on it faster than your competition. If you know exactly what your target audience (community) wants (context), it will be much easier to provide them value (content).
A wise man once said “If you think having the lower price in your industry is a good strategy, remember that someone is always willing to go broke faster than you.” That wise man was John Morgan, the author of Brand Against the Machine. What he means is that if your one major advantage over your competition is price, you’re in trouble. Pricing will continue to be a contested topic in business circles because of the ease of communication (one Tweet can notify thousands of other about an abnormally high or low price). I can find out what anyone pays for just about every product imaginable with a few Google searches.
You must price your product or service in a reasonable range and be sure as hell you’re ready to justify it. Negotiating contracts where the price far exceeds the value is a sure fire way to go out of business fast. Deciding on your pricing shouldn’t be difficult as long as you’ve set up a strategy to garner the feedback from your customers and clients (community), and are willing to act upon their recommendations (connection).
Location in the past may have been one of the most important factors in the success of your business. Have a lot of foot traffic near by? Your coffee shop will do well. Do a lot of cars drive by your dealership? Again, you used to benefit immensely. But today, while doing most of your in depth product research at home on your iPad, location doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Businesses that solely relied on their location for their success will face a major uphill battle against the kid in his basement selling the same product for the half price.
Promotion is still relevant today but in a different context. Thirty years ago you could blanket the population with your message and people would buy. Today, it’s very difficult to saturate your message on the masses. With an estimated 2,000-5,000 “brand” impressions every day it’s no wonder we have to ignore so much of the advertising.
The way promotion can work is to determine an audience that wants to hear your sales pitch for your new product and “wow” those people. Blatant Promotion only works if it’s anticipated, pleasant, and something of value.
Simply advertising is more of an awareness tactic and very difficult to do effectively. I’d suggest getting familiar with Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick”, so you can begin making advertising that is, Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotion, stories.
So why are the four “C’s” the new marketing norm? Let’s discuss.
What are you creating specifically for your target clientele? Is it original, real, and compelling? Yes, I’m talking about that generic monthly newsletter you’ve been sending out, that’s potentially great content that can help sell your product or service. All your outward facing communications are some form of content you’re in control of. You can develop your own voice, your own style, your own company personality and optimize the way you communicate over time.
What’s your key talkable difference, your competitive advantage, your key differentiating factor? If you’re just doing what everyone else is doing remember what Scott Ginsberg said; “there are no cover bands in the rock n roll hall-of-fame.”
Example: Nike produces some of the most amazing, original sports content in the world, see the star studded cast of their latest video series, The Kobe System.
In what context do your target customers interact with your brand? Are they searching for you? Do they see your commercials on TV? Do they look at youebsite? Is your website a positive representation of your brand? Is it easy to navigate? Are your services easy to purchase? Remember Mark Cuban’s Quote “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.”
The context how how you represent your brand on and offline tells us a lot about how you treat us, your customers.
Example: Redbull knows precisely how to communicate with their target audience, so much so that they even have a button on their home page titled “Holy Shit”.
If you shut down business tomorrow, would your customers miss you? If not, you have a serious problem. If you’re not making an emotion connection with your audience/customers it’ll be extremely simple for your competitors to undercut your price and steal away your customers. Do you think Blockbuster was making an emotion connection with their clientele? Do magazine publishers actually care about you, the reader, or are they just trying to maximize their advertising revenue?
Yes some industries are immune to needing to connect with their customers to survive, but if you can create a connection that’s more than transactional you have a major competitive advantage.
Example: Mitch Joel of Twist Image (an Agency in Montreal) writes regularly on his blog, produces a Podcast every week and will answer you on Twitter when asked a question. He’s humanized his agency and gained a lot of trust in by running his business this way.
Creating a connection doesn’t have to be creating a blog, podcast and monitoring Twitter 24/7. If you ask Capital Ford in Regina, sometimes all it takes is one Tweet: I think the Regina Police would agree that making a connection will exponentially grow long-term value.
Who’s got your back? Who would stick up for you when people post defamatory comments on your Facebook page?
If you’re not developing a community, a tribe, a following, a group of raving fans then you may have to go back to the drawing board. If your product or service is really as good as you say it is, it shouldn’t be hard to tell a few people and have your message spread organically. That, however, is much easier said than done.
Growing a mutually beneficial community around your brand isn’t an easy task but as with anything in life, doing the difficult work will pay off in a big way over time. What does your “community” want? A place where their voice is heard? A forum to connect with like-minded individuals? Maybe they just want the most up-to-date information on your area of expertise. Whatever it is, the only way to find out is to begin to ask and try to help potential customers without trying to make a sale. I’ll say it again if you missed it. Help potential customers without trying to make a sale, engage them, seek feedback every step of the way and provide more value than you’re extracting from your tribe.
Example: I have a paid subscription to SEOMoz software, I pay for tools to measure client websites more effectively. They send out a monthly list to subscribers, of the ten top articles they’ve found over the past month and every single article is extremely valuable. They also put out a video every Friday called White Board Friday, which usually consists of some advice or case study on how to improve your online presence.
Finally, a lot of the copy and writing on their site is done in a lighthearted, even funny way. I really enjoy a website that makes a relatively boring experience just a little bit better with humor.
They’ve established a community that goes way beyond a simple transaction.
So you see, we’re living in a completely different marketing era. What you did even five years ago may not be relevant today. You must constantly be measuring to understand where to make your largest return on investment and conversely, where you should be readjusting your strategy to systematically rid your marketing mix of useless tactics.
Have an example of one of the four C’s? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.