Thursday, May 10, 2012

Demand Generation Using Social Media

First let me say that I don't use the terms "lead generation" and "demand generation" interchangeably as I hear many people doing. I define "lead generation" as the steps taken to build a marketing database for follow up. This often takes the form of registration in exchange for information. I define "demand generation" as creating a demand for an organization's products or service using marketing tools. Both are legitimate ways to create business; however, demand generation is more big picture. Unfortunately, marketers tend to focus on lead generation because that's how they're measured. Social media is a type of content marketing that focuses on demand generation, as defined above.

Here's an interesting little tidbit for you – I use Google's Keyword Tool to get competition results for variations on every blog title I create. When working on this title there were virtually no searches for the combination of "demand generation" and "social media"; however, when I replaced "demand generation" with "lead generation" there were consistent "high" competition results. I see that quite often – marketers getting caught up in the daily minutiae and forgetting about the big picture, but then people are more often rewarded for managing daily activities rather than initiating long-term strategies.

I'm a big picture person and I like to create long-term success so I thought I'd share a few tips I've picked up over the years on creating demand generation and supporting the sales cycle using social media.

  1. Engage the Prospects

    This is developing a relationship with your prospects before they are leads. I cannot overemphasize this vital step. Nothing drives me crazier than having to register in order to see content, especially the first time I'm at a site. I don't know if the content is valuable and worth the extra effort. Companies lose me as a prospect all the time because I don't want to register just to find out the content isn't valuable. This doesn't mean that these prospects aren't qualified leads. They'll keep coming back for more information and be more willing to share their information with you. The goal is to nurture them in your social media as you would a known contact in your database.

  2. Target the Leads

    You've turned your prospect into a lead. The job's not done yet. Now you know something about them and it's time to target your online content and conversations to be more relevant. You also have the opportunity to track these leads through other customer engagement efforts and implement or integrate social media using multiple channels.

  3. Nurture the Sale

    You've been monitoring conversations and you see that a lead may be sales-ready. You've been paying attention to lead interactions and conversations and seen increased activity or intent. It's time to turn them over to a sales rep. Collaboration and communication is critical at this stage because there must be agreement on what a sales-ready lead is and when that lead needs to be turned back over to marketing to be further nurtured.

  4. Support the Customer

    Just because the customer has made the purchase doesn't mean you're done with them. It's a marketing tenet that it's more cost effective to keep an existing customer than to get a new one. This is all about customer lifetime value. You know how to reach and what they've purchased. Follow up and send them tutorials, affirmative e-mails, or just answer any questions they may be posting on your social media sites. They want to know they made the right decision and that you are there to support them if they have questions or issues.

Remember, social media is relevant through the entire buying cycle. The more you interact with your customers, the more likely they are to buy from you. They're looking for a reason to buy from you. Give them one. And once they buy, support them. This will position you as a trusted resource and a thought leader. Qualified prospects will reach out to you when they are ready.

Oh...one last small item – measure the results! Don't forget to have all your metrics in place so you can track where people are coming from, going to, and how much time they're spending on which pages. Just because this is social media that doesn't mean you can throw the analytics out the door. It's critical to be able to trace the path of your prospects as well as to be able to measure ROI, conversions, page views, click thru rates, etc.

If your social media effort feels like you're just goofing around online...you probably are. ;-)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Three Reasons to Use Social Media

I recently took a position with a company that is a little behind the times when it comes to their marketing. I found out how behind the times when I suggested to my boss that we implement a social media strategy. His response: "What's social media?"I knew in that moment I had my work cut out for me when it came to convincing him he needed to add interactive marketing in his mix.

Shortly thereafter, I had the privilege of sitting in on a round table hosted by the South Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Webolutions that was focused on social media. I was able to ask my peers their thoughts on overcoming resistance to social media. The responses were varied and interesting. I won't go into all of them, but I'll pick out three that really caught my attention, that I thought were outside the regular channels of overcoming resistance to a new idea, like throwing numbers at the problem.

1) You Can Work While You are Sleeping

Everyone knows that the blogosphere, tweetosphere, Facebook, and other forms of social media evolve, dialogue, and function when we're asleep, but I've never heard it put quite so succinctly, as when Webolutions Founder and CEO John Vachalek said, "Tell them they can continue to work while they are sleeping." Think about it...you're sound asleep and other people are promoting your product or company. You wake up in the morning to multiple conversations that have taken place through the night. They might be positive and they might be negative, but each one is an opportunity to create interaction with current and potential customers.

I have yet to introduce the idea of social media to an organization that is unfamiliar with it that didn't respond with, "We have no control. What if someone says something negative about our company?" Well, what if they do? This brings me to the next point.

2) Negative Comments Can Add Credibility

We've all gone online to review companies or products and seen postings or reviews that go on forever with nothing but positive to say. My first response is...they can NOT be this perfect. These must be paid reviewers or posters. As someone at the round table point out, negative comments make people feel better about a company or product. That sounds backwards, doesn't it? But think about it. Isn't there a certain comfort level in finding a company that has a few negative comments that have been addressed? Yes...these customers may have had a less than stellar response initially, but the company was responsive and addressed their concerns. That actually builds up credibility, equity, and reputation. It gives insight into the company and its values. That brings me to my third interesting reason for engaging in social media.

3) It's a Better Way to Tell a Story

We're all familiar with the phrase, "actions speak louder than words." A company can identify itself all over its website and other collateral as being customer-oriented, but it doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't follow up on those promises. Sure, we all like to go to a website to see what the company is about, but it's so much more fun to go on a Facebook page or look at the tweets to see how the company is really performing. Are they really responding to customers? Are they truly participating in events that give back to the community? What's going on in the company and who are the people behind it? Social media creates transparency, engages the customers, and lets them get to know the company. Customers are looking for a reason to buy from the company. Sometimes that reason is a tweet or Facebook post that says, "My grandson just got into CU" and the reader happens to be a CU alumni. There you go – a reason to buy from the company.

The Japanese have been practicing social media for longer than it's been around. They just didn't call it that. Business letters always start with a paragraph about the recipient's family or other non-business, personally-relevant topic. They've known for centuries the way to do business is to engage their customer, create a dialogue, and enter into a relationship. The rest of the world is just catching on and doing it digitally.

Social media can be very scary for companies that are used to controlling every aspect of their identity. What they need to understand is, even when they feel like they are not in control, they are. They control how they respond and thus, how the world sees them. Companies that fail to engage their customers are companies that will fail. There's a good selling point for you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Find Your Online Voice

It's not what you say. It's how you say it. If you've ever taken any writing classes, you'll hear that repeatedly. Instructors will talk about tone and voice to convey certain feelings and create certain reactions. If you've spent any time at all on social media sites, you'll recognize there are a lot of different styles out there. What you won't typically see, though, is the tone you used in your final paper for a class or Emily Post's perfect diction. What you should see is a reflection of the brand.

Rebecca Lieb, in her book Content Marketing, quotes Patricia Redsicker's example of Martha Stewart versus Emeril Lagasse. "If I read an article on how to braise a chicken from Martha Stewart, I expect a formal, scholarly, exact approach. If I read Emeril Lagasse, I expect a casual approach with recipe flexibility and punctuation - BAM!"

Their voices are distinctive from one another and reflect the personalities and brands we've come to associate with each of them. Martha Stewart is proper New England hostess and Emeril is down home Cajun. What's critical is that, even in the social media platform, the two brands have maintained the relationships they've developed with their audiences and the voices are genuine. That should be the basis for any social media or content marketing effort.

What an online voice should not sound like, says Lieb, is:

  • A formal newspaper article
  • Edward R. Murrow
  • A legal brief
  • An instruction manual
  • Your senior thesis
  • A sales brochure
  • A commercial
These aren't bad voices, in and of themselves. They're just not appropriate for an online presence. What you should be striving for is an informal, positive and upbeat voice - but without diverging too far from your organization's true personality. The voice should also be adaptable. Twitter almost requires the use of the more common social media shorthand; while a blog gives you room to have an entire conversation in regular English.

The Spokes-Character

This technique doesn't work for every company, but some have succeeded beyond expectations by adopting a spokes-character. The first best example to come to mind is the Travelocity Roaming Gnome, which is voiced by a 26-year-old American woman. The Gnome goes on trips, gets photos taken, tweets responses to The Amazing Race, which is sponsored by Travelocity, and celebrates his birthday. Senior Marketing Manager Karrie Fox said the Gnome was created to be a "fellow traveler" and to create a relationship with Travelocity's customers.

A spokes-character needn't be a creature, either. It could be a generic compilation of the target audience. Perfect examples of this are the PC and Mac guys from the Apple commercials. Apple wrote the commercials so of course their guy is the cooler of the two, but they're both designed to be a representation of the target audience - as viewed in the Mac Universe.The point is...make your voice engaging and interesting. Create a dialogue not a monologue. Keep it informal and upbeat, but maintain a style that will appeal to your audience.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Your Best Content Strategy is Thought Leadership

Reblogged from Geoffrey Colon, Vice President, Social@Ogilvy / @djgeoffe / futuristlab.tumblr.com

So many people I have spoken to as of late complain about the term “thought leadership. They are always asking, “what does it really mean and where does it get you?” B2B companies have known about this terminology for almost two decades and it has led to a lot of their content creation. In the B2B space, companies don’t make on-the-fly purchase decisions. You just can’t when you’re looking to overhaul your server systems at $4 million a pop. So you read up on what experts have to say on the subject. Maybe watch them give a speech or follow their Twitter feed to see what they are curating. These experts have been given names including influencers, champions, advocates, guru or even what I call myself, Subject Matter Expert or SME for short.

Why should your business be doing thought leadership? And who should do it? Well, to say it in short, everyone. Because thought leaders should be your entire organization. Not simply those at the top of the company. The best way for your company to transform is to crowdsource and collaborate as much as possible. Make everyone a part of the process in the new way of thinking about business. The other reason is thought leadership is your best content strategy. People want to feel like a company is larger than simply selling software or soda. They want to identify with it as a transformer of culture or the world at large. So here are five reasons on how to turn thought leadership into content. Have any ideas of your own? Feel free to join the conversation. After all, thought leadership means little if there isn’t a larger conversation around the subject.

  1. There is a lack of thought leadership in the world. Only 30% of companies use it now. That’s a small figure. And of those an even smaller percentage use social to amplify this thinking. So if you write it or video record it, amplify it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc. People enjoy this thinking and want to share it.
  2. The largest return that a company can generate comes from not just displaying expertise but having superior services that help your clients. Thought leadership is that inroad to a potential or current client saying, “this is exactly what we want. A thinker who can also act on that thinking and execute it for us into a meaningful solution. But they can’t get turned onto this thinking unless they actually see it. And where they see it is on your social channel.
  3. People are drawn into thought leadership because it’s editorial made for sharing.Content comes in all sizes and shapes but if it’s a passive piece of content will it reverberate within your community? Thought leadership looks to get a rise out of people. If it doesn’t it’s not leadership. The reason being is thought leadership is innovative, ahead of the curve and sets a bold new path where no one has gone before. That meets resistance from systems that don’t want to bend to change. And with that resistance comes conversation around the topic. And from conversation, sharing. And from sharing, invitations extend to more people to discuss your POV on the issue, subject, category, product, initiative, etc.
  4. Thought leadership comes in many shapes and sizes. Many think it’s still a boring white paper. But the best is now video sermons, Tweetchats, Q&As, infographics and more. The way you serve up your thought leadership is packaged as content. It’s not simply words on a paper.
  5. You become the conversation piece. Thought leaders don’t simply publish then sit back and move onto the next piece of content creation. Nor do those who consume such content not have an opinion. Content should be engaging. Thought leadership has this built-in so it instigates people to react. It’s a modern day futbol match. There are always two sides. One side may react in many ways generating additional reactive content that keeps your brand or company as the focal centrepiece around the topic. And when people are talking about the topic that you generated within the social environment, that’s a level of conversation that many pieces of general content can’t create.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Failure is the Road to Success

Typically my blog entries are focused on marketing, but the idea of failure has been weighing heavily on me lately. Every time I turn around, it seems, there is some new quote about failure making an appearance. It came up not too long ago in the copy of “The Happiness Project” I’m reading. One of the tweeters I follow, @AllisonMaslon, posted something about failure. All these messages keep talking about how failure is the road to success. Two of the messages that resonated with me particularly are:
  • Courage is realizing that each failure merely brings you that one step closer to eventual success.
  • If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough.

I read these and yet I can’t forget that in today’s culture failure carries a negative connotation – but primarily only with adults. Children are permitted failure, and the message given to them is clearly “Failure is expected and will lead to success.” As with every generality, there are exceptions: the abused child or the child expected to live up to someone else’s expectations, but we must remember – these are exceptions.

Think back to when you were small and learning something new. One of my experiences was learning to hit a baseball. I missed and missed and missed and yet there was always an adult there encouraging me with phrases like “No one gets it right the first time” or “Don’t worry, you’ll hit it the next time” or “Keep trying, everyone fails at first”. My dad, to paraphrase him, gave new meaning to the phrase “It’s not how many times you fall down that matters; it’s how many times you get up” when learning to ride a bicycle. The message is very clear – and the complete antithesis to the message delivered to adults in today’s culture. It is truer, I think, in the work environment than elsewhere.

When was the last time you made a mistake at work undertaking a new task and someone said, “I know this is the first time you’ve tried this, so just give it another go”? It’s more likely you walked away wondering what sort of negative impact your failure had on your boss’s perception of you. You may even have been reprimanded in some way for failing to get the new task right the first time.

As a general rule, people hustle and hustle and keep their heads down, hoping to just get by. Standing out is dangerous. Fear of failure is the stuff of mediocrity and an organization that implements a culture of fear is slitting its own throat. Empowerment to fail is the hallmark of a nonthreatening environment and an environment that recognizes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I see this type of activity every day and I wonder how anything new is ever innovated in corporate environments. Entrepreneurial environments are completely different animals. You can’t compare the two. It’s a rare corporate environment that doesn’t have processes in place designed, intentionally or unintentionally, to keep people from proposing and implementing new ideas, processes or strategies.

If we return to the process of our childhood when failures were accepted and encouraged as something to get past, rather than something to be reprimanded for, how much more improvement and innovation would there be in companies? Suddenly the person who steps up and makes a suggestion for improvement is rewarded, even if the idea isn’t initially successful or practical for implementation. Even in that failure, that person has been a success because perhaps that person inspired the next person to step up and his/her idea IS successful and saves the company time or money.

Or how about looking at the reason for the failure? It is our nature to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths. We traditionally seek to compensate for perceived weaknesses rather than learning to excel using our strengths. Perhaps the failure is the result of a person with a talent for strategy and seeing the forest rather than the trees having found him/herself in a position where the need is for details and seeing the trees rather than the forest. Move that person to the right position and suddenly excellence and success is the norm for that person.

The road to success IS paved by failure, in many shapes and forms. Though society would like to enforce its definitions upon each individual, we need to remember that they are personal definitions and individual benchmarks. One person’s failure may be another’s success.

If you want to be a success, it takes courage – be willing to step up and fail.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Product vs Solution Marketing

Product Marketing

Product marketing is a more traditional way to look at marketing. Typically it encompasses the first four Ps of the marketing mix: product, price, place, and promotion. I've heard it said that's laughably vague, but when you consider everything necessary to market a product, vague may be necessary to encompass all aspects of expertise.

The product marketer promotes the features and benefits of a product without really considering all of the needs of the target persona. I don't mean they're ignoring those needs with respect to the product, but they may not think about contingent needs. The product marketer simply doesn't consider partner products, services or other components common to solution marketing in the product marketing strategy. Because of this, the person undertaking this kind of marketing needs to be an expert on their product in every capacity including market research and strategy, technology, competitor offerings, tactics and analytics. This allows for product-based differentiation and positioning rather than solution-based.

Solution Marketing

Solution marketing, on the other hand, takes those features and explains how they are going to benefit the customer and offers an entire suite of options available to them in order to answer whatever needs the customer has – in their entirety. In other words, the solution marketer not only needs to understand the product but also the segment or industry landscape, the partner products, industry trends and how they all fit together. In addition, a solution-oriented marketing strategy is typically an enterprise-wide undertaking, so the professional must be able to operate in a much more cross-functional leadership role. Steve Robins, the founder of solutionmarkingblog.com explains it this way in his presentation Introduction to Solution Marketing:

Product MarketingSolution Marketing
ProductFeatures and Benefits
  • Best features
  • Newest capabilities
  • Technically advanced
  • Fastest processor
Customer Needs
  • Streamline processes
  • Improve customer service
  • Lower costs
  • Ensure compliance
PromotionPush or Outbound MarketingCustomer Engagement
PriceCost PlusCost vs Benefit

As you can see above, the 4Ps can still apply to solution marketing but I think they could be better updated to reflect the more customer-centric paradigm. We replace product with solution; promotion with engagement; price with value; and place with access. These four elements are much more reflective of how we need to update our marketing techniques to better engage the most current generations of X, Y and Z. They expect an experience not just a product.

The fact that we are asking more encompassing questions doesn’t change the process we go through in order to answer those questions but we do have to step into our customers’ shoes. We need to understand how to solve their problem so we need to be able to look at the bigger picture. It’s no longer “They need their CRM software to have features 1, 2 and 3” but rather a more all encompassing, “What regulations are there? What is their current system not doing? Will they need training? Is there a partner product that will fill a need we don’t quite have the answer to? Will it integrate with their other applications” and more.

We no longer push the information out to them with interruption marketing but rather engage them in a dialogue. We research where our customers are going to learn about our products. We find out who they’re talking to and what they’re watching. This is true whether we’re marketing B2B or B2C. The B2B customers are paying attention to what the end-users who purchased the product from the distributor are saying, just as much as the B2C customers are listening to their peers.

The price is no longer necessarily based in an “I get this many features for this price” mentality. The customers want to know not only what the features are, but is the product the right fit for the job and what else comes along with it. They’re no longer as willing to pay a higher price for unwanted features. They are willing, however, to pay a higher price if the product comes with extra training they need, or it integrates easier with software they already have in place, or a technical support plan is offered. Our customers want a value package for their money, not just the assurance that, “Yes, this product has all the features you need and it will integrate with XYZ software”.

Finally, we need to know where they want to purchase the item and how they want it delivered. We need to know if they want to buy direct, through a reseller, maybe on contract or any number of other channels. Once we know that, we need to figure out how they want it delivered. Do they want instant download? Maybe they want it shipped. And in the end, maybe there are new channels that we didn’t know about that we can take advantage of.

Conclusion

Solution marketing requires a much more in-depth approach than product marketing, but in the end, it’s the more effective strategy. It increases the customer lifetime value and satisfaction as well as increasing brand equity. The value is perceived as higher so margins increase and, taking the entire ecosystem into consideration, the potential is there for a more differentiated offering. Back in 2003, McKinsey & Company estimated, in their August 2003 McKinsey Quarterly that it could result in a 3-7% increased return on sales, but I wasn’t able to find any updated results.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Demystifying Content Marketing

Content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute, is “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” In other words, it’s communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. That newsletter you receive every week that gives you “how to” tips or shares industry trends, or tells pet adoption happy ending stories – that’s content marketing. The hope behind this strategy is that the recipient will reward the purveyor of this valuable information with business and loyalty.

The challenge with this strategy is knowing where to start and what information to send. In theory, this is an uninterrupted stream of information going out via whatever channel, or channels, you select. That’s a pretty high demand on your resources if you try to deliver custom information to every segment. I’ve broken that down into a more manageable process:

  1. Simplify content management
  2. Analyze personality segments
  3. Establish the content production process
  4. Focus on relevant data

Simplify Content Management

Sure, you have customers and prospects everywhere. You can’t turn around without running into one. But the question is, where are they congregating? It’s like going fishing. You’re sitting at the top of a river and you can see all the subsidiaries downstream. They all look promising but after a little observation you notice that all the fish you’re after are located in two or three places. Those are the places you want to cast your line. The same is true of content management. Just because you can disseminate through twitter, facebook, blogs, or more traditional print media, that doesn’t mean you should. Find out where your fish are hanging out. Whittle it down to a few major sources. That’s where you concentrate your energy.

Analyze Personality Segments

Psychographic segmentation is a great tool for breaking down what information you want to send out. The confusion comes when you try to create a different strategy for each personality segment. There can be a huge number of variables you have to deal with when it comes to your buyers – so don’t create a strategy based on each personality segment. Look for commonalities. You may find that two, three or four overarching content paths that will resonate with the largest percentage of your customers and prospects.

Establish the Content Production Process

We’ve all been there. You need to write some content for a channel. You whip it out and think it’s great. You’re ready to post. Oh, wait…you forgot something – the review. And now you’re behind on your schedule. As with most things, having a formal process in place to manage collaboration and production will smooth the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that one of my favorite things is to review and streamline processes, but for the most part they’re in place because they work –at least to some degree.

Figure out what your demands and resources are. How much time does the project require? How many people do you have on your team with the necessary skills for the project and how much time can they give, respectively? You might have to cut back on the scope of the project a little or you may be able to expand, but there are your demands and resources. Then you formalize your actual process. Typically that means going from writer to editor to final to publish to promotion. Specify who does what and how long they have to do it. Thanks to CMI for this great illustration:

Focus on Relevant Data

Finally, you’ve got your message out and you’re starting to see returns. Great! I love information. I love seeing it come in, putting it into a visual format, analyzing it and using it to adjust my strategy or design to maximize my return. Not everyone loves numbers, though, and even those of us who do know we need to pick and choose. You need to decide which data is most relevant to what you are trying to achieve. For me, that usually means conversions, traffic sources, key words, popular content, exit pages and traffic comparisons.
  • Conversions – I like to know what content is successfully achieving the desired actions. Sometimes that means clickthroughs; sometimes that means a phone call off of a sell sheet; and sometimes it means something else. The point is, I need to leverage what’s working to increase my ROI.
  • Traffic Sources – This helps me figure out where to spend my dollars. I may shift my spending from one ad to another or away from postcards and into webinars. Maybe those Google AdWords you’re spending an arm and a leg on simply aren’t working.
  • Key Words – This is probably pretty self-explanatory. Look to the ones that are working and leverage their exposure and use. Eliminate the ones that aren’t. It doesn’t hurt to look at your key phrases as well.
  • Popular Content – Again, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. If something isn’t working, rework it or replace it. I repurpose content that’s working in one channel for other channels, if it isn’t already in use there.
  • Exit Pages – For whatever reason, if you see a high percentage of exits from a particular page, there’s a pretty good chance something on it is losing your audience. It might not be pertinent to them or it might not be presented in such a way as to hold their interest. Any way you look at it, something needs to be done to keep them looking at your content.
  • Traffic Comparisons – This is a great overview tool. It will tell you if your traffic is up or down. You can compare to the same time period from the previous year or just look at how traffic is doing on a continuous basis.

Small Bites

Like any other large project or undertaking, looking at Content Marketing in its entirety can be a little bit frightening and overwhelming. If you break down into its component parts and then focus on the most relevant aspects of those parts, it’ll seem a lot more manageable.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Relationship Marketing Has Gone Mainstream

If you aren’t relationship marketing, you’re missing out. Sure you need to generate your leads and bring in new customers, but it’s much more cost-effective to keep the customers you have. Relationship marketing is all about that. Relationship marketing strategy should be designed to inspire customer loyalty, engage the customer, and promote interaction.

The Cross-Functional Approach

You’ve heard of cross-functional teams, particularly when it comes to producing a product. In that situation a team is responsible for the entire production of the item, from beginning to end, rather than being segmented so that one person is responsible for only one step in the process. Relationship marketing is cross-functional. Ideally, it involves all aspects of the organization.

Martin Christopher, Adrian Payne, and David Ballantyne[3] at the Cranfield School of Management claim that relationship marketing has the potential to forge a new synthesis between quality management, customer service management, and marketing. They see marketing and customer service as inseparable.

I had an experience this morning that cemented that for me. I am in the process of conducting a customer satisfaction survey for one of our companies. Upon receipt of the invitation, one of our customers sent back a response in which he complained of some issues he was having so he couldn’t give us anything but negative feedback on that company. Because I am a relationship marketer, my response was to do a little customer service. Ten or 15 years ago, I might have sent that over to customer service to handle, but that’s not what I do anymore. That customer reached out to me, so it’s my responsibility to do what I can to assuage the situation. I absolutely vetted my response, but I handled it. It’s part of my relationship marketing strategy.

Customer Retention

So you’ve got the customers. Now what? Keep them. It costs almost five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. It doesn’t matter if this customer is Jane Doe who lives by herself with her dog, a multimillion dollar business you distribute your manufactured products to, or even a low-bid contractor. You all have customers that you can work toward retaining and client relationships that need to be managed – even the low-bid contractor. Steven Howard, of Howard Marketing, puts it beautifully into the 7 C's of Successful Customer Retention:
  • Caring Attitude – Let the customer know they are important and that you really want to help them.
  • Customized Practices – Do what you can to meet your customer’s specific needs. Sometimes that involves flexibility, simpler forms and understanding the customer’s relationship with the company.
  • Competent CSOs/CCPs – Put people in place that are accountable and willing to take action. People who are knowledgeable and meet commitments are priceless.
  • Call/Visit Once – Don’t make your customer explain the problem more than once. Their initial contact should be the one point-of-contact for the customer.
  • Convenient Access – Structure your personnel’s hours around your customer’s needs. Contact information should be easy to find and understand, as should your website, and your ordering process, etc.
  • Compressed Cycle Times – Fast turnaround times, responsive customer service and proactive services go a long way toward making your customer happier.
  • Committed Follow Through – The first contact person follows up with the customer to ensure they are satisfied. If contact was due to a problem, they do their best to see the problem or error isn’t repeated.



When Is It Too Much?

Sometimes, as cold and calculating as it sounds, you have to let a customer go. When it comes right down to it, you are running a business. You need to weigh what it’s costing you in time, energy and money to retain that customer, versus their value. It’s one thing if you have a high maintenance customer who is bringing a lot to your bottom line, but, and this is a cold hard truth, sometimes you have a high maintenance customer that doesn’t bring much to the bottom line, so they end up costing you more than they are bringing in. I’m a little guy, so I hate saying that, but I owned my own business for a while so I know from whence I speak.

Another thing you can do is talk to your employees. They’ll know which customers have a bad reputation; which ones are costing them time better spent elsewhere; which ones are abusive and negatively affecting morale. When productivity and morale go down, so does profitability. That’s a fact.

Sometimes...you have to fire the customer.

For more information on Steven Howard's 7 C's of Customer Retention you can watch this video:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Choosing Your Cause Partner - The Four Pillar Approach

A lot of companies make the move into cause marketing by simply looking for an organization that’s a good match for them. Joe Waters, one of the authors of Cause Marketing for Dummies, calls that the Garanimals approach. You remember those? Choose the same animal on each item of clothing and they should match. That’s definitely a consideration, but I don’t think it’s the first thing you should look at...rather, make it the last. Like any other marketing strategy you undertake, you should have a plan. I like the 4-step approach.
  1. Choose Based on Passion, Support, or Appeal (Waters, Cause Marketing)
  2. Cultural Fit
  3. Fiscal Responsibility
  4. Program Impact

Choose Based on Passion, Support, or Appeal

Follow your organization’s heart. You notice that I say “Your organization’s heart” and not “your heart”. You need to pick a cause that the bulk of the people in your organization can get behind and have passion for. If you choose saving the Lesser Known Spotted Horney Toad from extinction because the CEO is passionate about the cause rather than choosing the Red Panda Rescue when 70% of the company thinks that’s an important cause, you made a bad decision. You’ve given up the multitude of advocates in favor of the one.

If no one cause stands out, select one that has a large following. These are people you want to connect with your business. If you partner with a cause that has loyal active supporters, they’re much more likely to be drawn into supporting your organization.

If you don’t feel passionate or can’t choose a cause with an active support base, then choose a cause with a strong emotional appeal. What’s a more emotionally powerful message? That your nonprofit rehabs meth houses or that your nonprofit cleans up oil spills and saves animals from death?

Cultural Fit

You’ve narrowed your cause partners down to a select few. Now what? They need to be evaluated for how they fit with the marketing culture you’ve created. Take a look at their ads, website, social media efforts and other marketing strategies. Are they in alignment with your organization’s mission and message? Is their message and branding consistent? And how do they deal with their other cause partners if they have any? This will go a long way in determining how successful you’ll be in partnership with them.

Fiscal Responsibility

Evaluate the nonprofit’s ratings in Charity Navigator, the BBB for Charities and Donors and Guidestar. Look at the board members and their reputations. Evaluate their operating performance for the last two or three years. These will efforts will provide you with enough information to determine the organizations ability to run smoothly and maintain their current reputation. It also shows you what they spend on programs versus administration.

Program Impact

The last piece of the puzzle is to look at where the organization’s programs have impact. Are you looking for an organization with a global footprint? Maybe you want something local. Or possibly you want an organization that has a global footprint but visible local impact. Any way you look at it, it needs to meet the needs of your plan and the kind of exposure you want to develop or enhance.

Don’t Forget…This is a Partnership

In the end, you still have to decide what kind of partnership you want to have with the nonprofit. I support a true partnership, not one where the for-profit is dictatorial. Listen to the nonprofit about their past experiences. Be transparent about who your company is, changes taking place, sales and goals you want to accomplish. This is like any other partnership: you need to get buy-in from the stakeholders. They want to know they’re maximizing their benefits just like you like to know you’re maximizing your profits and benefits.