Jan 10, 2013

Invest in customer experience, not in marketing!

Wow, that might be a provocative thought for some marketing and sales executives. Growing your business by spending less on marketing? Well, kind of. It’s just a different perspective on marketing – delivering exceptional customer service and a great customer experience is the new marketing. It keeps existing customers loyal and attracts new customers through referrals. Many studies have shown that:
  • It costs many times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing customer
  • Word of mouth and referrals are the most effective marketing
There are many success stories of this approach (e.g. Zappos.com), and it seems obvious that the “sharing culture” of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc.) makes the focus on customer experience more crucial than ever. So, how do you create a great customer experience? It’s simple: Set the right expectations and then exceed them with your product and service offering. Or in other words: Under-promise and over-deliver! Of course, the challenge is to identify (and manage) the customer expectations, and then package and deliver a product / service combination that actually exceeds those expectations. Here are some ideas:

How to set and manage customer expectations:
  • Better understand customer needs, challenges and behavior
  • Evaluate emotional factors (urgency, anxiety, etc.)
  • Listen to customers and their comments and expectations (Twitter, Facebook, sales/service calls, surveys, etc.)
  • Document your findings! Include “expectations” into you marketing planning and strategy process.
  • Communicate the right story. Make sure your marketing/sales communication to customers doesn’t over-promise or set the wrong expectations
How to meet and exceed expectations with your offering:
  • Step into the role of a customer and evaluate what they “experience” when doing business with you – think about every touch point. How do they learn about your product? How and where do they buy? How do they pay or get invoiced? How do they get your product/service delivered? How do they use it? How do they get help and support?
  • For every important touch-point, you should identify (and set) the customer expectations and then align your services/products to match or exceed those expectations.
  • Design a more customer centric process and culture. Encourage the whole organization to “work for the customer”. Give your employees the freedom to “wow” the customer (discount, free shipping, special treatment, etc.)
  • Evaluate if you are targeting the right segment (If you offer a high-price, high quality product and you target the “low-price” audience, you won’t be able to exceed their expectations)
As you can imagine, there are endless possibilities of detailed research, human behavior analysis and other scientific methods to optimize customer expectations and experience, however, the goal of this blog is to simplify things. 1. Make your organization aware of it; 2. Focus on customer experience as part of your marketing strategy; 3. Start evaluating the various customer interaction touch-points and better align expectations with your product/service delivery.

Oct 15, 2012

What’s your Social Media Strategy?

It’s so tempting to create a Facebook page or Twitter account and start tweeting and posting - without a strategy or plan. Social media needs a strategy and a plan, even though your customers and users do most of the “work”! Start with clarifying your main objectives for using social media. Here are a few thoughts:

Strengthen your brand – Brands are increasingly influenced by the social media engagement of your company and the conversations among customers about their experience with your company, products and services. Social media gives you new insights about customers’ needs. It engages your customers in authentic conversations to build loyal and lasting relationships.

Improve customer support – Social media provides a great way to learn about issues, find solutions and get those to your customers and users quickly and efficiently. By monitoring tweets, posts and forums you can learn about issues before they escalate, pro-actively offer solutions, and have your users/customers help each other.

Accelerate product innovation – Learn more about your customers, what products they use, what they like and don’t like and how they make buying decisions. Gather feedback from your users’ social media conversations, ask questions and monitor exchanges based on keywords and your brand (using online tools such as Lithium, Radian6)

Increase customer acquisition - People prefer to buy what their friends and peers buy or recommend. Thus, social networks are great for gaining new customers through referrals, incentives, promotions and games.

Improve customer loyalty - Social media engagement keeps your customers more loyal. The fact that people “talk” about your product is a first step to customer loyalty – it means they care about you and your product.

After you have defined your objectives for why to use social media as a marketing tool, you need to develop strategies on how to build and engage your community. More on this in a future blog post.

Jul 30, 2012

How to use IMPROV for Marketing Strategy and Planning

I recently took a class to learn how to use “improv“ (improvisational theater) in business. To my surprise and probably to the surprise of many of you, improv is not about coming up with funny lines and going crazy on stage, it is rather based on simple and very effective principles:

“Improv teaches actors to listen and be aware of the other players, to have clarity in communication, and confidence to make choices instinctively.”

So, how can you use that in marketing? Well, it is almost 100% the same – great marketing is about:
  • Listening to customers and being aware of their needs and situation (empathy).
  • Clearly communicating to them your value proposition, benefits, and how to use your products and services.
  • Making choices and fully committing to it: Focusing your offering on what’s really important for the customer based on what you have learned from them.
And frankly, based on my experience in working with start-ups and other companies, these three areas often represent their biggest challenges. Companies don’t really listen/understand their customers and their needs, they communicate using vendor terms/buzzwords/tech-talk, etc. and finally, they lack focus and try to be too many different things.

So, how about adding a little improv to your marketing strategy planning? Listen and observe, communicate clearly and then focus on what's right for the customer.

Apr 19, 2012

Marketing is about asking the right questions

I work with a lot of start ups and small companies and often I get asked for the quick fix: "We just need to find the right blogger", "we just need to get mentioned in NYTimes", "we should be on Facebook", "we just need a Rolodex for referrals to get our first customers". Well, this might work, but it is neither a sustainable nor repeatable strategy to launch and grow a business. Actually, it is like playing the lottery, you might win, but most likely you won’t.

Every business is different and a key part of launching/growing your business is to find what works and develop a scalable model - and it all starts with asking the right questions. When I sit with my clients, they are very appreciative about the questions I ask:
  • Audience: Do you really understand your audience? Their needs and behavior? Their daily challenges?
  • Value: How do your products/services address those needs and solve the challenges? What value do they provide? (not features!)
  • Objectives: What are your business objectives - in numbers? Can you actually measure those? (Note: You can only manage what you measure!)
  • Strategy: What’s your (go-to-market) marketing strategy? Is it aligned with your business objectives? Is the whole team aligned around this strategy?
  • Story: Do you have a compelling story that sells? Why should customers buy your offering versus the competition? What’s your elevator pitch?
  • Plan: Do you have a plan in place to execute your strategy? Is it aligned with your business strategy? Does your team know and understand the plan? Is it realistic based on your available resources?
  • Success metrics: How to do you measure success? What are the key metrics that drive your business? Do you know them on top of your head?
Some of the questions might look so obvious, but I often experience that they don’t get the right attention and focus. The above questions help executives better understand the needs of their audience, refine their offering, deliver customer value and create a compelling message – and this is what successful marketing is all about.

Jan 18, 2012

Do you really know what your customers need?

Many high-tech companies LOVE technology, they create lots of features, and talk about it. As we all hopefully know by now (see my other post about customer focus), customers don't buy the product features, they buy the VALUE of the product. So, in order to build and market the right value you need to really understand what customers need. I just got this graphic that illustrates the issue that different people within the organization have different understandings of the customer needs.
Disclaimer: I did not create this graphic, somebody sent it to me. And I would like to recognize the unknown person who created it - great job!

Nov 23, 2011

The business marketing app for iPhone and iPad – Marketissimo!

Marketing iPhone apps
We are very excited to announce that our new marketing app for iPhone and iPad is available in the Apple iTunes App Store. Marketissimo helps you jumpstart your marketing by asking the right questions and exploring new marketing ideas & strategies. You can also easily share topics and ideas with others via Facebook, Twitter or email. The app will guide you through key questions to improve the effectiveness of your marketing and accelerate the growth of your business:

  1. How effective is your marketing strategy?
  2. Do you have a compelling value proposition?
  3. Does your story sell?
  4. What's your social media strategy?
  5. Is your website delivering enough sales?
  6. Do you fully leverage SEO and Search Marketing?
  7. How do you measure success?
  8. and more...
For whom is Marketissimo? The marketing app is designed for marketing & sales professionals, executives, Chief Marketing Officers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Marketissimo is like a personal “marketing coach” in your pocket - it guides you through critical questions to grow your business to the next level.

The Marketissimo app for iPhone & iPad is free and is available in the Apple App Store!

Oct 25, 2011

The email marketing success checklist

Emails and newsletters to opt-in audiences are still working. What’s not working as well are "cold" emails to rented or purchased lists, long-winding emails without a clear offer or call to action. Here is a list of things you should check:

Segmentation and targeting is everything
Any communication is only successful if the message is target towards your audience. For different audiences you need different emails, content, offers and call to action. Even within one segment, try A/B split testing: 50% get subject line A and the other 50% get subject line B, etc.

Subject line is key
Large percentage of email marketing success is driven by the subject line. The subject decides if the email gets opened or not, or worse, goes directly into the spam folder:
  • Make it short (50 characters or less)
  • Create curiosity
  • Match with your actual email content and offer

Short and simple

Nobody wants to read long texts or emails (anymore). More and more people scan texts, they don't read. Make it easy and quick to get the essence of your email.
  • Short (No scrolling required)
  • Use bullets (versus paragraphs of lots of text blocks)
  • Use images to get attention or emotional effects
  • Clean, simple and professional design

An offer they can’t resist with a clear call to action

Probably the second most important driver for success is an attractive offer (what do I get?) targeted to your specific audience and a clear call to action (how do I get it?) in the email.
  • Sign up, register, or download
  • Buy now, free trial – special offer
  • Get a chance to win
  • ...

Landing pages for a "safe" landing
The goal of a landing page is to “land” people and don’t let them take off without having signed up, registered or purchased something. Here is how:
  • Deliver what you have promised in the email
  • Don’t distract with other offers, navigation, etc
  • Ask the minimum amount of information you need
  • Make is easy and obvious (buttons, etc.)
  • Simple and clean design of page

Measure success and always be testing
Email marketing has many variables such as, time of day sent, day of the week, subject line, offers, design, etc. If possible, test different subjects lines, offers, layouts, and optimize your email campaigns over time. Here are the key metrics:
  • How many emails were delivered (did not bounce back)
  • How many were opened (use HTML to track)
  • How many clicked-through to the landing page
  • How many actually "accepted" the offer
  • Cost per lead/sales