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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Why You Should Consider Customer Service to be 1-to-1 Marketing

November 7th, 2014
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Some retailers only see customer service as an expense.

They view it as a cost that needs to be ruthlessly cut to the bare minimum by incentivizing call center reps to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible and push customers to self-service portals instead of providing easy contact information.

Yet, a major challenge retailers face is that many are resellers and the products they sell are commodities.

 

If a customer can buy the product in many places, why should they buy from you?

Since the products are the same, retailers need to create a unique value proposition for their store.

One unique element of value can be your store’s customer service. According to data from the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study, customer responsiveness correlates with success.

Stop thinking of customer service as a cost center and start thinking about it as an investment in one-to-one marketing.

Let me show you what I mean by using a customer journey as an example.

In this case, the customer journey is one I intimately understand since it was my own. (Please Note: I am overdramatizing it for effect and to highlight different decisions that go through the buyer’s head. In reality, some of these journeys may happen in a matter of minutes and many happen at a subconscious level for the customer.)

 

My customer journey

In my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., it has been raining and hot and cold and dark and bright and buggy and all sorts of other excuses I could come up with for not going running. I needed a fool-proof method for exercising.

After doing some pain-point-level research, I discovered a recumbent exercise bike would be the solution I was looking for, since I could comfortably catch up on HBO Go while exercising – just the motivation I needed. Some product category research led me to the Marcy ME 709 Recumbent Exercise Bike.

Now that my product search was complete, I had to decide where to buy it. This was a commodity product with the same exact model available at many retailers. A quick foray into a shopping search engine identified 38 online stores that sold the exact same bike.

 

One-to-many marketing

There were price differences, and that helped with store selection. But another factor that helped with store selection was one-to-many marketing.

With so many selections, there were various stores I trusted thanks to their overall advertising and branding campaigns, print ads, newspaper circulars, content marketing, a physical presence in my hometown and many other tactics I would consider one-to-many marketing.

This branding, combined with my overall experience with these stores in the past – even excellent branding can’t outweigh negative customer experiences – caused me to prefer some stores over others.

However, there were still many stores to choose from.

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Project Management: Communication is the lost currency of business

February 28th, 2014
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Communication is the lost currency of business.

When thorough and effective communication is not present in business, everything else seems a little off.

George Bernard Shaw said it best: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I’m sure we have all run into situations where we thought something was taken care of, but the memo didn’t get through clearly, and then you became angry at Joe in Accounting for not compiling those numbers for the important meeting with the VP. The scenarios are endless and the consequences can be devastating, all from one communication mishap.

Here are a few tips that have improved the communication within my team that you can use to aid your own communication efforts.

 

Silos are for farms, not businesses

I see companies operate in silos much too often.

Departments only two feet away from each other have zero idea what the other team is working on.

Closed lines of communication are a missed opportunity for sharing transferable discoveries that can potentially achieve commingled goals.

For example, if your team is working on a project that you think could have discoveries or beneficial concepts that may apply to a different project elsewhere in your organization, you should try to share that information whenever possible.

A quick summary of your team’s projects distributed in a weekly update email or during a peer review session can help build good communication by spreading vital information companywide.

Ultimately, it takes a proactive effort to share information with other departments in order to help eliminate the poor communication that often results when groups work in a vacuum.

 

Optimize your meetings to avoid more meetings

I understand this isn’t a new concept, but we’ve all attended meetings that were pointless and a waste of valuable time. Too often, objectives aren’t set and leaders aren’t identified.

Here are a few ways I try cut down on the wasted meeting time:

  • Set an agenda, and send it out to participants. If you are running a conference call, make sure to send the agenda to attendees at least a day in advance for review to ensure you don’t miss anything.

The agenda should always include a spot for a meeting objective and room for you to include the attendees and their roles. Keep the meeting to the agenda so topics don’t get too off track, which leads to more wasted time.

  • Delegate a note taker. Probably the most crucial role in a meeting, this person helps to capture the most important points and action items and sends it as takeaways to all attendees for reference.

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Crisis Communication: The first 48 hours of 9/11 from inside American Airlines headquarters

September 9th, 2011
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Tony Wright, founder and CEO, WrightIMC, had a very unique view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. — he worked for Weber Shandwick on the American Airlines account, helping with corporation communications and interactive marketing. One of his key responsibilities was optimizing AA.com for search.

“When 9/11 happened, it was an all-hands-on-deck type of thing at Weber Shandwick. [American Airlines] called us because they needed help and support,” explained Tony.

He immediately drove over to the Fort Worth, Texas, airline headquarters and began tracking news about the event and his client.

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B2B Marketing: Relevant content must move beyond “glitz” and tell a properly sequenced story

March 10th, 2011
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“What we have here is…failure to communicate.”

Much like Cool Hand Luke, who heard this iconic line from his despotic warden after misunderstanding the prison’s stance on attempted escape, B2B dialogue that is not relevant to a target audience will ultimately prove to be a waste of effort, and a failure in communicating value.

As we all know, no matter how fast, inexpensively or well-targeted a B2B company maintains dialogue with customers or prospects, the success of each email, tradeshow, phone call and sales meeting depends on the relevance of the message.

But the challenge that you and the imperious prison warden share is – how do you create a relevant dialogue with a skeptical audience who has heard it all before?

Recently, I was reading through The B2B Refinery: An executive guide for improving Go-to-Market ROI through greater Sales and Marketing Efficiency, by J. David Green, Director of Best Practices – Applied Research, MECLABS and Michael C. Saylor, and they discuss this topic at length.

Though I can’t get into everything Green and Saylor cover about this topic in the book, one thing was certain after reading it — this is a complex question with an answer that is constantly changing. Or should I say evolving

Evolve with the buying cycle

The information needs of the customer or prospect change as they move through the business buying cycle. For example, the more products and/or services that a customer buys from the vendor, the less information the customer generally requires.

However, a B2B company cannot address a buying cycle in isolation. Relevance is challenged by competitive B2B dialogue, which is cost-effective dialogue conducted with lucrative market segments that stems from competition. This compels vendors to find more efficient means of delivering relevant dialogue than through sales representatives

Of course, this abundance of information ultimately compounds the problem. Apart from mirroring the buying cycle, what are the key characteristics of relevant dialogue?

  • The dialogue must take into account past interactions of the prospect: especially his explicit and implicit areas of interest — with the most recent interactions often mattering the most
  • The customer or prospect must recognize the context of the communication

Instead of creating relevant dialogue, however, most marketing departments focus on universal messaging, giving less attention to relevance. While it makes sense to give advertising a consistent look and feel, these marketing practices fall short of the needs of business customers.

Buyers need an evolving, personalized story from a vendor. And like any good story, this one needs to have a defined beginning, middle and end, with each “chapter” addressing the interests of the audience. If a particular sale takes a significant period of time – perhaps even over multiple years – then the dialogue needs to last just as long, progressing naturally with the buying process.

To continue an analogy from earlier, branding and positioning are merely the movie poster and “glitz,” whereas integrated communication is the writing, acting and direction. Sure, branding and positioning matter. But they are no substitute for a well-told, relevant story.

Related Resources

Real-time Marketing: Don’t complain about the weather, put it to work

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

Members Library — Build Brand and Customer Loyalty Through One-to-One Communication: 7 Tactics

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