Archive for the 'Brand Marketing' Category

Discounts – A Slippery Slope?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Consumers love discounts.  Who can blame them?  Who doesn’t want to pay less for something?  For marketers, they are very enticing.  They can boost sales, break-through the clutter, and stimulate trial from new customers.  Used correctly, they are a valuable tool for a marketer.

However, if used indiscriminately, consumers become dependent on them, expect them, and won’t shop from your store without them.  That’ll force you to either provide a steady stream of discounts that you’ll probably never be able to stop or risk the wrath of your consumers.

Much like a carpenter, you aren’t going to be successful relying on a single tool (heck – you can only do so much with a hammer). Discounts can provide wonderful results for companies, but make sure that you don’t forget other useful tools in your marketing tool box.

Ten Tips for Addressing Customer Service Issues Via Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

How would you respond if you called a company’s customer service department and the agent told you to send an email to another customer service group and someone should be able to help you out?  Pretty frustrated, right?  Well, you see that type of response frequently by companies on their social networking sites.

It happens because sites like Facebook and Twitter are often under the domain of an organization’s marketing or public relations department and there isn’t sufficient coordination with the customer support group.  The problem is that your customers have and will increasingly turn to websites like Twitter or Facebook to air grievances and seek resolution.customer-support

Your customers don’t care which department is responsible for “social media oversight” or your organizational structure.  When they tweet you or post a comment on your Facebook page, they expect the same type of results (if not better and faster) as if they picked-up the phone and dialed your phone center (or emailed or contacted you via online chat).

Given the public nature of social websites, prompt and effective customer service on Facebook, Twitter and the like is extremely important.  Not only should you want to take care of your customer, but because your response is seen by prospects, other customers, vendors, and partners, it also impacts your brand.

Here are a few tips to help provide excellent customer support on social websites like Twitter and Facebook:

  1. Understand that even if you don’t have a Twitter profile or Facebook fan page for your company, your customers will still voice complaints about your organization on those sites and you need to be prepared to react.
  2. Develop a process to handle customer service issues that are communicated via sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Include all relevant groups within your organization and make sure that you treat the posted complaint like an email, phone call, or chat – in others words, be proactive in contacting the person who originated the issue and be ready to help them.
  3. Have social monitoring in place so that you can respond quickly to issues.  If you are still developing your process, you can use social monitoring to get a sense of how many issues you might encounter on a daily or weekly basis.
  4. Don’t forget that social media time (especially Twitter time) elapses at a much quicker pace.  Just like 1 human year equals 7 dog years, 1 real world hour equals something more like 7 twitter hours.  Responding in 48 hours isn’t seen as being prompt in the social media realm.
  5. Be strategic about when you communicate publicly and privately.  Not all communication with the customer needs to happen via public comments.  The initial contact should be public so that others are seeing you are being responsive but often the follow-up (getting specifics, etc.) is better done via email, phone calls, or direct messaging.
  6. Even though we live in a digital world, sometimes the best way to diffuse a situation is by talking the disgruntled customer over the phone.  The extra effort can go a long way and is usually appreciated by the customer.
  7. Make sure there is some process to provide a summary report of complaints and issues back through the organization. The best way to handle customer problems is to prevent them in the first place and complaints and reported issues should be valuable feedback to sales, marketing, engineering, research and development and product development.
  8. Be transparent!  Don’t, and I mean never, try to diffuse a situation or defend your company through a response where you pretend or give the allusion that you are just another customer or unbiased community member.
  9. Don’t think that only ‘big’ companies need to worry about customer support on the social media sites.  People use the web do research on all types of companies (big and small, national and local).
  10. Obviously, don’t forget that anything you post publicly can be viewed by everyone.  Think about how your response will be perceived by others – don’t be dismissive or defensive.

Is there anything that I missed?  What suggestions do you have for companies to be successful in addressing customer service issues via websites Twitter and Facebook?

5 Internet Marketing Myths

Friday, April 17th, 2009

It’s amazing how often I hear the same misconceptions and misunderstandings from prospects we talk to, clients we work with, or others when discussing Internet marketing.  While businesses have become more savvy with respect to the web, some still have much to learn. 

The following are five of the most frequent Internet marketing myths that I come across:

It’s really about the latest and greatest trend.  While technology continues to amaze, some things don’t change.  Content is still king and in order to engage you have to provide something of value.  The printing press probably wouldn’t have had such an impact initially if Gutenberg had decided to print a book of mutton stew recipes instead of the Bible.  In the end, technology can’t overcome bad design, poor strategy, inferior quality, or terrible customer service. 

I can handle email subscribers in the same was as my direct mail list.  Direct mailers sometimes have a difficult time understanding the repercussions of emailing to subscribers too frequently or to those who didn’t provide clear permission.  Junk mail delivered by the United States Post Office, at worst, ends-up in the recycling bin, while unwanted email triggers spam complaints which in turn tarnishes your email reputation and makes it more difficult to get your communications to those who really want it.  Just because it only costs fractions of a penny to send an email to an email address doesn’t mean that you should.

I’ve implemented XYZ analytics application so I have done all that I need.  Implementing a service like Omniture Site Catalyst or Google Analytics is a great start, but it is just a start.  Companies need to ensure that they have trained staff dedicated to analyzing the information provided by tools like Site Catalyst.  These applications have many wonderful reports but the ‘canned’ reports won’t tell you everything in you need (often they only provide a small portion), and you have to have skilled people focused on analyzing the data in order to gain the insights needed to improve results.

SEO is free – I can just have someone already on staff handle it.  There are companies that handle search engine optimization in-house and are very successful.  But those companies will be the first to acknowledge that it’s not free.  SEO is still such an art and science that you need to dedicate real resources to truly understand how to succeed.  Also, because the rules are continually evolving, a considerable effort needs to be made to stay current and that takes time and commitment.  Companies who think they can buy a book and task someone without search marketing experience to handle SEO in her ‘spare time’ soon discover that approach is a recipe for failure.

I control the conversation.  Companies can foster, facilitate, participate, and even impact the conversation but they can’t control what is being said about their organization.  Customers are having conversations about organizations and their products and services on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, blogs, Amazon (product reviews), etc.  There is nothing that a company do to stop it and attempts to only backfire.  Organizations must stop worrying about control and learn how to participate.

What Internet marketing myths would you add?