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?

Blockbuster Finally Avoiding The ‘Me-Too’

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

As a long-time Netflix customer, I didn’t pay too much attention when Blockbuster first launched its DVD rental by mail service.  However, all of that changed recently.  A bit of history first… 

Before Netflix (yes there were other DVD rental by mail companies, but Netflix made the first big splash), Blockbuster owned the DVD rental market.  The Blockbuster story was to just get in your car, drive a few minutes to your nearest Blockbuster and with their wide selection, find the perfect movie.  As long as you return it on time, no problems.

Netflix exploded on the scene positioning itself as a more convenient option - go to their website and select a move, it is delivered to your mailbox, when you are done watching it, just put back in the mail and they will send you another.  Also, you can get ratings and  other information that helped you select a movie.  Oh, and none of those dreaded late fees.  Netflix changed the rules of the DVD rental business.

When Blockbuster got into the DVD rental by mail business, I really didn’t pay much attention.  As a consumer, I was perfectly happy with Netflix.  I found the Netflix site easy-to-use, and as they have added more distribution centers, the turnaround time was very good. Also, with hundreds of movies in my queue, I had no reason to complemplate a move.  As a marketer, I saw Blockbuster as taking a “me-too” position – nothing really compelling to differentiate themselves.

However, Blockbuster recently announced that their DVD rental customers can now return movies to their local Blockbuster store.  Now, from a consumer perspective, that is something truly differentiating.  There are times when one of my Netflix movies doesn’t fit a need (e.g. the kids want to watch a movie) or I still haven’t received my new movie and in the past, I actually rented a movie from Blockbuster.  Being able to do that withouth any additional cost is valuable to me and I am guessing to others, as well.  As a marketer, I applaud Blockbuster for turning their brick-and-mortar stores back into a DVD rent by mail strength, especially since its not like Netflix can open 5,000 stores like Blockbuster.

My one complaint with Blockbuster is the integration between online and offline is not complete.  For example, if I return a by-mail movie at Blockbuster and rent a new one, I need to manually remove the new one from my online queue.  Also, I need to have an account at the local store – even though I have an online account.  Still steps in the right direction and enough for me to test drive the Blockbuster service.

Do It Right Or Don’t Do It At All

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

I needed to buy an iPod for a gift and I thought I would try Best Buy’s in store pick-up.  I love the concept – buy your product online, select the closest store that has the item in stock and in about an hour it will ready for pick up.  The convenience of online shopping without the wait or cost of shipping.

What I didn’t realize is that the pick-up area for online orders (at least at my local Best Buy) is the customer service desk, which also handles returns.  Not only are those desks notoriously understaffed (there was one person working), but since returns never seem to be straightforward the wait can be quite long.  When I arrived, I was 3rd in line and it took over 15 minutes for me to pick-up my order.

Given that there were no check-out lines and the store wasn’t busy (except for the returns), I have no doubt that I could have just walked into the store, found someone to get the iPod from the locked case, and paid for my purchase all within about 5 minutes.

After I left the store, I noticed that my receipt had a customer service number listed and I figured I would call to complain.  However, to add to my frustration, there was a 45 minute wait to talk to a customer service agent.  Needless to say, I won’t be visiting Best Buy anytime soon.

The bottom line – if you are going to roll out a new service, make sure you take the time to do it right.  In this case, Best Buy turned a loyal and satisfied customer into a frustrated one by the delivering the exact opposite of what it was supposed to be offering.

Best Practices and Big Brand Fallacy

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

As marketers, we tend to want to emulate the biggest and most successful businesses. Simply by mentioning that Apple, Best Buy, or Amazon, or whomever the aspirational brand might be does something a certain way, may be enough all the justification that we need to proceed with a certain course of action.

For example, my most recent e-mail from Apple contained all images and since my e-mail program automatically suppresses images, the e-mail was blank when I opened it.  Now, you could argue that because Apple is Apple and imagery is important to their brand, sending all-image HTML emails makes sense.  That might be the right decision for Apple, but unless you have big brand power, it probably doesn’t make sense for your company.

Certainly look at what other successful companies are doing and learn from their accomplishments, but don’t forget to take into consideration what assets they have that you don’t.  While intimidation might be the sincerest form of flattery, it may not always make the most business sense.

Building Awareness Isn’t Enough

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Snakes On A Plane, a movie starring Samuel Jackson, received a tremendous amount of buzz on the Internet, which raised expectations for what is certainly a “B” movie.  However, while opening #1 at the box office, the $15 million it brought in was considered a disappointment. 

In a recent post, Seth Godin made an astute observation about the whole Snakes on A Plane phenomenon.  Seth commented:

“I fear that people are missing a fundamental truth: just because people know who you are doesn’t mean they’re going to buy what you sell.”

In other words, building awareness is only part of the puzzle, you also have to have a desirable product or service.  This is an important yet often overlooked concept in both the offline and online worlds.

For example, marketers will obsess about keyword rankings on Google or Yahoo wanting to be ranked as close to the top as possible, but they don’t spend equal time thinking about the experience once the visitor clicks through to the website.  The same can be said for creative in e-mail campaigns and banner advertising. 

Does your link bring the visitor to page with content relating specifically to the keywords they were searching on?  Is the value proposition of your product or service clear?  Is your content scanable and is there a clear call-to-action?  Are you spending as much time looking at your logs to see what people do once they come to your site as you are reviewing your search rankings?