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Posts Tagged ‘customer experience’

Customer-First Marketing Strategy: The highest of the five levels of marketing maturity

September 7th, 2017
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If you’re not careful, “customer-first marketing” could just be mere words. You could deceive yourself and label anything as customer-first marketing just to make yourself feel good.

To get deep for a moment, I was thinking about this recently because it is the season of repentance in my tradition. A chance to re-evaluate not just our words, but our actions.

Rabbi Steve Fox, the chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis has explained it as, “Certainly the High Holiday call and the time of the holy days is a chance to reflect upon what’s in our hearts and to see if our actions match our own self-perception of who we are and what we do.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a similar tradition in marketing? To help you get beyond mere buzzwords and make that evaluation of where your company is on its path toward strategic, customer-first marketing, we created this simple look at the five levels of marketing maturity based on our research with 2,400 consumers.

The five levels of marketing maturity (and the 54% increase in revenue realized at the highest level)

When we were creating this framework, we knew we needed a methodology to reference that would clearly communicate the different levels. After thinking about it and debating it, we realized we had a pretty good model to base it on from MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization, MECLABS Institute.

The patented MECLABS Institute Conversion Heuristic has been discovered from and validated by more than 15 years of real-world behavioral experimentation. It brings a cognitive framework to the factors that affect the probably of conversion. This heuristic was released in 2007 and is quite well known at this point, so you may have seen it before:

Until now, the heuristic has always been displayed linearly, as you see above. However, we realized if we stacked the elements of the heuristic, it would be a clear representation of the levels of marketing maturity. Each level is inclusive of the level that came before it and builds on it.

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The Radical Idea: Customer-first marketing prioritizes customer experience over upsells

June 2nd, 2017
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I stopped by Barnes & Noble on Sunday, early enough that our open-air mall — St. Johns Town Center — was nice and quiet.

It was a more pleasant experience than simply buying on Amazon.com. Got Starbucks for my daughter and hung out with her in the café. Purchased a Harry Potter book for her. Bought myself those chunky Sunday editions of The Florida Times-Union and The New York Times.

It was a more pleasant experience than Amazon.com…until I got to the cashier. Because that’s when I got hit by the dreaded upsell.

In this latest edition of The Radical Idea on the MarketingSherpa Blog, here’s my op-ed about ideas for revisiting your checkout process as well as adding humanity to customer touchpoints, using my recent experience at Barnes & Noble as an example.

First: The argument for the verbal upsell

Anytime I see something in the world that I think needs a radical change, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the other party involved. It’s all too easy for an outsider to look at something and point out faults, falsely assuming the other party is simply being foolish.

However, people and corporations tend to be rational actors, doing what they perceive to be in their best interests based on the incentives placed before them. Even the people behind Nigerian email scams are rational actors. I’m not defending the practice at all. I’m just saying, the best way to institute change is to understand where the other party is coming from — not merely assume they are foolish and wrong. And then identify a possible knowledge gap they may not realize.

So, before I disagree with the way Barnes & Noble handles upsells in store, let me acknowledge why they might have instituted this practice. When I tweeted to the brand that this wasn’t the best customer experience, the response they tweeted back stated, “We ask booksellers to mention the benefits of Membership, in a professional manner. We appreciate your feedback.”

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The Future of Advertising: What Wharton learned from 200 marketing leaders

February 10th, 2017
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The world is moving away from a standard view of advertising. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, advertising was fairly easy to identify. But what is it today? And what will it be tomorrow? These are the challenges that have been facing the advertising and marketing industry for at least the past decade.

What should advertising be in the future? How do we get there? And, most importantly, who can answer these questions?

The Wharton Future of Advertising Innovation Network

So in 2008, Catharine Hays teamed up with Wharton’s SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management, founded the Future of Advertising Program at the Wharton School, and began assembling what would be a team of 200 advertising, marketing and academic leaders at organizations ranging from Facebook and Google to Tsinghua University and NPR.

hays 3Research from this who’s who of the advertising and marketing industry ultimately informed the publication of Hays’ book (with co-author Jerry Wind, Director, SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management), Beyond Advertising: Creating value through all customer touchpoints.

In the book, she provides a perfect summation of the challenges facing our industry: “This book is for those who recognize that tremendous and far-reaching changes continue unabated in the field of advertising and marketing.”

Catharine’s research intrigued us, and I’ll be interviewing her on stage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas.

As we prepared for that session, we chatted about these challenges, and I wanted to share a few of the lessons I learned from that conversation about her research.

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The Radical Idea: Outsourcing that touches the customer is penny wise, but pound foolish

October 14th, 2016
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Think about how hard you work, how much time and resources you put in to get a customer’s attention.

It may be that you have methodically built up a content marketing powerhouse that pulls in new and returning customers. Or you invest a big part of your budget in social media advertising or print advertising. Maybe you’ve spent hours and hours scrubbing your list squeaky clean and creating valuable newsletters and a finely tuned, marketing-automation fueled drip campaign.

Whatever your marketing focus, you realize that getting customer attention for your marketing efforts is costly…and valuable (not to mention a privilege).

Now what if I told you that companies are throwing this valuable asset away every…single…day?

No, it’s likely not you and your peers in marketing. It’s probably the team in the Logistics Department. Maybe in your company they call it Fulfillment. Or perhaps it’s someone in some other department that is involved in product delivery.

These product delivery decisions are about so much more than cost and speed. They also affect customer perception because they touch the customer. Customer touches and those valuable moments of customer attention are just as valuable after a purchase as they are before a purchase.

When I brought up this idea to Shane Cragun, Founding Principal and CEO, SweetmanCragun, and co-author, “Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption,” he told me that “customer touchpoints can also be called ‘moments of truth.’ They are connecting points between the company and customer where the customer leaves with a renewed perception of the company.”

Cragun said that these moments of truth touchpoints can only do one of three things:

1) increase customer loyalty
2) decrease customer loyalty
3) maintain the status quo in the buyer’s mind.

First, a personal anecdote to understand the challenge, and then a few reasons why you’re missing an organic opportunity to connect with current and future customers and ensure that you increase customer loyalty (or at least maintain the status quo).

That can’t be for me

I recently bought a clothes dryer from The Home Depot. The driver calls me and says he’s 15 or 20 minutes away. A little while later, I hear what sounds like a big truck driving down my street. I look out the window, but no, it’s just a pickup truck towing a plain, white trailer. Not a truck from The Home Depot. Must be a roofing contractor working on another house in the neighborhood.

But then I hear the truck noise again. Apparently, the truck had turned around in the cul-de-sac at the end of my block, and was in front of my house. So I walked out of the house and talked to the driver and, sure enough, they were delivering my dryer. The driver happened to be wearing a GE shirt, and I had ordered an LG dryer.

Now you may be thinking — Daniel, who really cares? What’s the difference which truck they were driving or what shirt he was wearing? Value perception, my friends. Value perception.

Marketing’s job is to turn actual value into perceived value

When you think of the marketing function today, there are likely many processes and tasks that come to mind. Managing a database. Making sense of analytics. Setting a drip campaign in a marketing automation platform.

But all of those activities are secondary. Marketing’s primary job is to influence perceived value. And you do that by clearly understanding and leveraging the actual value delivered to the customer.

In my case, the actual value delivered was spot on. The delivery people were helpful and nice, and they delivered and installed the appliance quickly and correctly. Really, everything a customer would expect in a home appliance delivery.

So it wasn’t the service itself. It was the perceived value of the service. And that is marketing’s job to influence.

But if you’re a marketer, here are four reasons you should own or influence as many customer touchpoints as you can:

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The Radical Idea: Why investing in the physical world should be part of your social media marketing budget

August 18th, 2016
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What do you include in your social media marketing budget? Most marketers focus on elements like software and tools, paid advertising, social media management, and content creation.

But let me introduce a radical idea – the physical customer experience is a worthwhile investment as part of your social media marketing budget.

Sounds crazy, right? That’s in someone else’s department. It’s someone else’s focus.

But I bet you would have thought I was crazy if I told you just a few months ago that two men would fall off a cliff chasing a pretend monster on their mobile phones (fortunately, both were rescued by firefighters and only suffered moderate injuries).

One thing the Pokémon GO phenomenon should teach all marketers is that – thanks to the evolving way customers interact using mobile devices – the digital world is not a vacuum.

Nowhere is that more true than in social media. Because companies do not own the conversation about their brands on social media. They can participate and engage and boost and shape and share the conversations about their brands. But they cannot control them.

So an important element of positive word-of-mouth about your brand is how customers interact with your brand in the physical, real-world environment. To put it in terms of an overused cliché – think outside of the digital box.

Here are three ideas to help you create unique ways to leverage the physical world for social media impact.

Idea #1: Invest in the product

This may be the most radical idea. Product cost is not usually considered part of the social media marketing budget. The usual (way overly simplified) thinking is: price – cost of goods sold = margin.

But what if you didn’t attribute all of the cost to produce the product as a manufacturing or R&D expense? What if you looked past simple production costs to consider what extra, special, unique touches you could add to a product (or service) experience that sparks enough extra joy in your customers that they’ll want to tell everyone about it on social media?

Wouldn’t this be a worthwhile investment? Specifically, a social media marketing investment? In fact, it might be worth more than, say, a paid Facebook ad.

To spark some ideas, watch this story from the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Media Center showing how an exceptional product experience naturally flowed into social media exposure and value.

 

“They actually were going to Instagram and posting very natural photos of what their experience was like when they received that box. They’d put their children in and want to take pictures of their babies in this box brimming with broccoli and kale,” said Cambria Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing, Door to Door Organics. “And all of a sudden, we realized that they were taking and sharing that joyful feeling. It was all over social media, and it was ours to embrace.”

Some products have a more expected passion behind them than others. And in this case, Door to Door Organics is an online grocer that delivers natural and organic groceries, a product that typically has a passionate following and lends itself unsurprisingly to social sharing.

However, any product experience has the potential for social sharing. All experiences are relative. When you create a better product experience than expected, you increase the odds of a positive customer experience on social (on the flip side, the same effect works in reverse when you don’t meet customer expectations).

If you’re serious about social, don’t leave that just up to product managers. Put some (budgetary) skin in the game to deliver positive surprises for customers.

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Customer-First Marketing: Do you put your customers’ interests first?

June 21st, 2016
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fiduciary-dutyFiduciary duty. These words have been in the news lately, as the government seeks to require that financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to their customers in certain cases.

A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. So what this new regulation essentially means is, financial advisors must put customer’s interests before their own. And the financial industry has been fighting this.

As marketers – this should be crazy to us! This is what we should do every day: Put our customer’s interests before our own. How can a business, much less an entire industry, be against the customer?

 

Remember: You are not your customers

Customer-first marketing begins with the realization that our desires and goals are not necessarily the same as our customers’.

Let me give you an example. Mary Abrahamson is an Email Marketing Specialist at Ferguson Enterprises.

Usually if you go to marketing industry events, and a mobile vendor asks, “Who has a smartphone?” we see that everybody raises their hands. And so the vendor says – “See, everyone has smartphones.”

Well Mary realized – she wasn’t her customer. Her customers were plumbers and HVAC professionals. These people often had flip phones. So, when she launched a mobile campaign, she made sure that text messaging was an important part of her campaign … not just apps. The campaign ultimately generated more than $10 million in online revenue.

So next time you’re launching a campaign – take a fiduciary responsibility with your customers. Think of their needs … and not just your own.

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6 Tips for Creating an Effective Survey

September 2nd, 2014
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As marketers, we see lots of benchmark data and statistics that we base our business decisions on.

At MarketingSherpa, we recently conducted a nine-month study on the state of ecommerce.

You’ll see the results of our research conducted with 4,346 marketers across 95 in-depth charts.

Obviously, this data didn’t come out of thin air. There was a survey that our MECLABS research team carefully constructed to gather those insights.

Crafting effective surveys is potentially the most important part of collecting useful data, whether you’re fielding research for a report or simply gaining customer feedback.

Diana Sindicich, Senior Manager, Data Sciences, MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa), played an integral part in the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study and provided some tips on how to produce the most effective survey for your needs.

 

Survey Tip #1. Evaluate your situation

There’s a good time, and a not-so-good time, for everything. This rule of life applies to surveys as well.

In surveys, situations may exist for you that make it a good idea to field a survey, Diana explained.

This could include scenarios of when you want to understand your customers’ motivations or characteristics. Maybe you’re looking to expand your product lines and want to know what your customers would like to see offered.

On the other hand, there are times when a survey may not be the best idea for what you want to accomplish. Perhaps you have a very personalized service with a small group of customers. Surveys can be perceived as impersonal — conversely, an interview would make the customer feel special and valued.

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E-commerce: Does your website appeal to hunter-gatherer instincts?

March 7th, 2014
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For thousands of years prior to the advent of agriculture in 8,000 BCE, our ancestors survived as hunter-gatherers. I would say we are still, at our core, hunter-gatherers.

This idea becomes really interesting when we stop and consider some of our shopping behaviors.

Think about the last time you went shopping – where did you go?

My favorite place to shop, for example, is about 20 minutes from my house. After I park my car and walk into the store, I’ve committed maybe 30 minutes of my time to the shopping experience.

Once inside, I generally walk around the store counterclockwise. I look high and low, feeling fabrics, examining products and “hunting” for the items I want to buy. If I go without a specific need in mind, I generally end up buying the coolest, newest item that catches my eye. I also see many people wandering around just looking to buy something.

They have a perceived need; it’s just not clearly defined.

 

Hunter-gatherer instincts go beyond the bounds of brick-and-mortar

For an example, I need a new pair of jeans. As I walk over to the men’s department, I scan up and down. Retailers have a knack for placing impulse buying items where people will normally look. By the time I get to the jeans area, I may have invested 45 minutes in my quest to buy a pair of Levi 550 jeans.

When I arrive at my goal, I find out they have one pair of 550s that are the correct size, but they are perhaps too faded, or too dark or otherwise not quite right.

Now I have a decision to make and a few options: go to another store and search there, go home without any jeans, or buy the jeans that are there.

In this case, I buy the jeans and head home happy, having spent a total of about 90 minutes in total.

Now, what happens when I go hunting online?

My trip is likely going to begin with a search engine, where I enter “Levi’s 550 jeans” in the search bar and 324,000 listings are shown in to me in about 0.45 seconds – a little faster than my trip to the store.

As I scan the different listings, I see Levi’s, Amazon, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s.

So I click on Levi’s first, and it has my 550s front and center. But for some reason, before I can shop with the  company, it wants my email address first. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong here, Levi’s is taking some interesting and creative approaches to engage customers, as one of my colleagues recently shared.

But in this particular instance, the experience is not so welcoming as the perceived cost for hunting here is rather high right off the bat, so I immediately back out and search elsewhere.

 

When the hunt is overwhelming, choice becomes paralyzing

Amazon is next. Now I must admit, I am not a regular shopper on Amazon, so I’m a little overwhelmed by all of my choices. All I want is a pair of jeans.

 

One more click and I am back out again.

Although my lack of Amazon savvy is no fault of the company, I like this example because it highlights the paradox of consumer choice: While consumers want choices, having too many options can lead to indecision.

So the challenge in building a fantastic customer experience is in finding the right balance of options to make consumer choices easier whilst plentiful.

 

When you’re loaded for bear, nothing else will do

My next stop was J.C. Penney and although the hunting here is a little less overwhelming, there was one interesting thing I noticed.

 

In this shopping experience, I was offered alternatives to the Levi’s I wanted first, which made me a little confused and uncomfortable.

To play the devil’s advocate here, the research manager in me think’s it’s absolutely plausible that J.C. Penney’s could be doing some testing, you just never really know.

Ultimately, the distraction I experienced here prevented me from moving towards the ultimate “yes” and here’s why.

The psychological investment required to discern between my perceived need for Levi’s and the alternatives offered was much higher than I expected.

So I backed out and continued hunting.

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Infographic: Customer experience in the digital age

April 30th, 2013
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For today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, we have an infographic from Kentico, “Customer Experience in the Digital Age.”

The research behind the infographic was an eight-question survey of 200 Internet users via SurveyMonkey in February 2013, and the survey was open to both consumer and B2B brand interactions.

 

Here are few data points on the surveyed Internet users:

The gender breakdown was 54% male and 46% female, and the age breakdown included …

  • 18-24 – 10%
  • 25-34 – 20%
  • 35-44 – 24%
  • 45-54 – 19%
  • 55-64 – 15%
  • 65-74 – 10%
  • Over 74 – 2%

To help put this infographic – and the research that went into the content – into context, I had the chance to interview Thom Robbins, Chief Evangelist, Kentico Software.

 

 

MarketingSherpa: What were some of the key findings?

Thom Robbins: Company websites were second (25%) behind word of mouth (28%) in weighing most heavily on impacting brand affinity. In-store experiences factored [at] 18%.

Perhaps most surprising was the discovery that only 7% of respondents felt their brand experience was affected by social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, but I think this may be misleading. People may be influenced by social media a lot more than they think they are, through both direct and indirect interactions.

 

MS: Did any results come as a surprise?

TR: Other than the small role social media seemed to have, which I think merely shows us it’s a channel still on the rise, I was most surprised to see that 69% of those surveyed said they were willing to give up personal data in exchange for more customized service.

 

MS: Were there any results that might inform future research, or uncovered data points that deserve/require a deeper dive into customer insights?

TR: Well, I thought it was very telling that 97% were ready to forgive poor service as long as the company offers up a quick response or correction.

It’s important for businesses to know that while mistakes will be made, in the age of social media, every single customer experience counts. You can’t afford [to have] anyone to walk away unhappy, and there’s really no excuse given how forgiving customers are as long as you respond quickly to complaints.

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