Want to Grow Your Customer Intuition? Become A Customer Evangelist

The role in today's organizations most suited to developing great customer intuition and insight is increasingly the customer evangelist. The person designated to be the customer liaison, the face and voice of the company or product. The customer evangelist is the person(s) in your organization that advocates for the interests of your customers and the person with the most insight and intuition into the needs and wants of your customers.

The Church of the Customer Blog highlights great tips for being a Chief Evangelist:

Betsy Weber, the chief evangelist for software toolmaker TechSmith, has five solid tips for being an official company evangelist and helping create other evangelists just like yourself.

1. Be a power listener.
Listen as much as you talk (if not more). Then, bring those conversations with customers into your company so the user's voice is heard. Keep the conversations going. Relate the feedback you hear to product teams, be the voice of the customer, and fight for what they want at your company.

2. Get out of the marketing department.
This isn't a marketing job. This isn't to create sales. It's about customer care and customer relationships. Dump the marketing lingo. Be transparent, open and honest. You have to be an extrovert and people person. It's almost a way of life -- you're either suited for it or you're not.

3. Get your whole company onboard.
It takes more than a Chief Evangelist to create customer evangelists. Every area that the customers interact with must be on board with creating customer evangelists. If one department fails to give outstanding service or gives the customer a negative experience the whole company is affected.

4. Open the front door and be accessible.
Give out your direct phone number and real email address. If you hide behind voicemail and an email alias you might miss a great opportunity. Give VIP tours and arrange for customer meet-ups. Customers will appreciate it and it can be a competitive advantage.

5. Have passion.
You must love and believe in the products, and you have to be passionate about the people who use them. If you won't, who will?

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June 4, 2006 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tom Peters' Blog on Defining Customers

Steve Yastrow over at tompeters.com has a simple definition of a customer:

Anyone whose actions affect your results.

Simple, succinct and broadly applicable. If we're talking about developing customer intuition and using tools to learn more about the background and happenings of our customers we better have a good definition. What do you think? Is this a good definition? Anything to add?

tompeters.com: Refine to Simplicity be sure to read the comments. Good stuff their too.

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March 10, 2006 in Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Put These Entrepreneurial Proverbs on Your Radar

Screenshot 03-1Over at O'Reilly Radar as opposed to Radar O'Reilly, there's a great list of “Entrepreneurial Proverbs” that are intended for engineer types who want to start their own companies. Great bit size chunks for those looking to start a company or just wanting to shape some advice for someone who is.

Cool ideas are useless without great needs -- this is the classic engineers' entrepreneurial mistake (or at least I'd like to think so, since I've made it). Techies love tech, and a new technology can produce a lot of companies that don't really meet a need. Better to start with the need, and then see how what you know can produce a better answer to that need. (Marketers tend to have the opposite problem: real, pressing needs with completely unworkable solutions.)
Build the simplest thing possible -- engineers have the hardest time with this, with not overdesigning for the need they're addressing. Make the simplest possible product that makes a significant dent in that need, and you'll do far better than you would addressing two or three needs at once. Simplicity leads to clarity in everything you do.
Solve problems, not potential problems -- you can waste a lot of money implementing solutions for problems you don't have yet, and may never have. Work on the biggest, most pressing problems today, and put aside everything else.
Test everything with real people -- it's unbelievable how helpful this is. Go find civilians, real people who use computers because they have to and not because they love to. Find them in Starbucks, or at the library, or in a college computer lab. Give them $20 for 20 minutes, and you'll be paid back a hundred times over.

Read the rest of the list.

O'Reilly Radar: “Entrepreneurial Proverbs”

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March 9, 2006 in Building B2B Relationships, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Boing Boing Reports on Two Disconnects Between Operations and the Customer Experience

Today Boing Boing reports on two stories that illustrate disconnects between operations departments and the revenue generating mission of an organization.

First it's airports. Cory Doctorow posts a report that airports are covering power outlets to deny power to travelers looking to recharge their laptops and cellphones. Many of these same airports sell access to WiFi internet access. Who can buy and use WiFi if their laptop batteries are depleted? This sounds like a disconnect between operations looking to curb electricity use and management that wants to generate more revenue and enhance travel customer experience.

Cory also points to a post on the Re-Imaginering blog that discusses maintenance problems at Walt Disney theme parks. Apparently, the operations budget is so tight that animatronics are deactivated instead of repaired, figures are repositioned to avoid excessive wear on costumes and entire new attractions are actively opposed by operations because they don't have the budget to maintain them. Again a disconnect between operations and the customer experience. Raving fans who are more than willing to evangelize the theme parks are noticing and the web is spreading the word.

How about your organization? Are you aware of any disconnects that are negatively effecting your customer experience? Maybe it's as simple as that incredibly cheap paper in your laser printer. That cheap stuff will save dome pennies but the client frowns at that cheap stuff their expensive reports and studies are printed on.

Where do you see disconnects that are sending mixed messages about your business to your customers? Is it time to realign your budgets and priorities?

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February 28, 2006 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Annoyed, Annoying or Glad to See You!

What's the most annoying thing you do? Not what annoys you the most but what you do that annoys others. Hard to know unless you are a mind reader. One way you can know some of what others might find annoying about you is to examine the behaviors of others that you find annoying and see if you do those same things. Do your coworkers constantly interrupt you? Ever want to strangle someone talking too loud on their mobile phone? Do you find yourself avoiding calls from chatty sales people? What about you? Do you interrupt your coworkers who are busy? Do you sometimes talk loudly on your cellphone? Do you chat too much with your busy sales leads? Many times with great self importance we are quick to excuse ourselves from behavior that we find annoying in others. “It was really important” “I just don't get good reception on the train.” “I'm just trying to build a relationship.” Reasonable, justification or excuse?

It's time to be more intuitive, to read people better and to understand what habits and work practices you can adjust this year that will enhance your ability to connect, collaborate and grow your working relationships with coworkers and customers.

Start this week and keep a list of annoyances that come into you day. Next week put those on your “Not ToDo” list. New Year, new habits, new style.....new level!

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January 9, 2006 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Current Affairs, Customer Centric | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Luxury Hotels Using Technology to be Intuitive about Their Customers

Preferences it's all about knowing and adjusting to the preferences of their guests.

When regulars like Laurence Wiener check into the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York, they get more than a smile from the concierge and a mint on their pillow. Wiener's hotel room “knows” exactly how warm. It welcomes him with a personal message on his television. It even loads his most frequently dialed numbers onto the phone.

And the bellhop did not have to do a thing.

At the Mandarin and other high-end hotels, new computer systems which connect individual rooms to network servers can now keep track of guests' preferences and change the room conditions automatically.

These “smart” systems can learn whether a frequent guest likes the lights dimmed, the curtains closed or the room toasty warm. They can also personalize the electronics in the room so that the music of John Coltrane, for instance, greets jazz buffs when they enter their rooms. Meanwhile, sensors in refrigerators alert maids when the minibar is running low on Coca-Cola.

In the old days hotels relied on their staff to remember and make these adjustments to their customers experiences. People are a critical aspect of these smart hotels:

Smart networks rely largely on a user's preferences that hotels gather in various ways. Some guests, for example, fill out questionnaires before they arrive. At the Mandarin, housekeepers, bellboys and waiters took note of Wiener's preferences and updated the digital profile that the hotel keeps for each customer. Wiener, an anesthesiologist from Philadelphia, has stayed at the Mandarin 45 times the past two years when he was supervising the construction of his apartment in New York.

Trusted relationships are at the core here. Guests/customers need to trust a hotel to accept and benefit from these personalization systems. If you believe the motives of a hotel are to truly serve you better you are more willing to be open about personal preferences and information. If customers are concerned about the use of that information all the tech in the world will only scare off customers.

How is your business balancing the need to respond to customer preferences and assure them you can be trusted knowing their birthday and all that can be intuited from their purchase history.

International Herald Tribune: In 'smart' hotel rooms everything is just right

Related:
Hotel Forcasts the Weather
Find What Touches Customers

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November 17, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Marketing Communication, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Customer Intuition Failure: ATM Machines

AtmWhy is it that the bank that sends me statements in English asks me everytime I use an ATM machine if I feel like giving it a go in Spanish? Guess what bank? I'm going to select English every time.

Wouldn't it be better if you could just select a prefered language and have it programmed on your ATM card so the machine never had to ask you again?

As more and more self serve kiosks and automated systems take over the customer interactions there needs to be a common sense approach to their interface design. Just as people need to be intuitive about their customers so to the machines.

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November 6, 2005 in Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Audio Comments for Newsletters

How are you incorporating the omnipresent cell phone into your business? While many look to legislate against what they perceive to be rude behavior with cell phones the fact remains that they are a fact of life. Those businesses that can most effectively leverage their use will win. I've posted before about customer service and the frustration that customers have when seeking to solve a problem but their definitely is a role for automated telephone systems designed to take advantage of the fact that more and more people have a cellphone with them 24/7.

Outbound calls and marketing text messages are still hugely controversial but what about inbound calls and messages? Can marketing encourage calls for additional information, voicemail comments, polls and surveys, contests, sign-ups, etc.

I think there is a real difference when expectations are set up-front. When callers are informed upfront that they're calling an automated system they aren't frustrated by the inability to reach a human CSR.

Give it a try. In your next email newsletter try requesting specific audio comments to a voicemail box or answering machine. Some recipients won't take time to write out an email comment but they just might give you three or four minutes of valuable feedback by voicemail.

Related:
Polite is a Moving Target
Thinking About Customer Service

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October 24, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Creating a Company Newsletter, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Writing A Newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What XM Satellite Radio Should Be Doing at the World Series

On the heals of my post yesterday about Story-crafting I can't resist commenting on XM Satellite Radio's plans to market to baseball fans by passing out coupons good for their portable receivers to all 40,000+ ticket holders to game one of the World Series in Chicago on Saturday.

This is old school marketing where the marketer tells the story and the consumer has to listen and respond in the narrow way as prescribed by the marketer. In fact fans who received the coupons have to buy at least three months of the $12.95/month service to get their radio. Way to build a nice barrier to entry XM. It's passive buy before you try marketing.

What XM Should Do

It's all about sampling the content not the hardware. By simply giving out coupons they don't allow potential customers to do either.

XM should:
-Develop special one station receivers to give to every fan on the way into the game.
-Partner with MLB and Fox to provide the best content possible.
-Do pre game and post game programming to cross promote XM content.
-Produce the game coverage with as much listener participation as possible. Use fan interviews, call-ins, contests, trivia quizzes, etc.
-Allow fans to trade in their receivers for discount coupons good for discounts on hardware and service.
-Consider broadcasting to those receivers that aren't turned in for a week following the game as further promotion of XM content.

A freebie that's got a hidden cost to it is doomed. You're bait and switching potential customers. Those prospects will feel cheated before they even hear the content. Pay per use media needs to be all about sampling. You don't buy a car without test driving it. You don't buy concert tickets to bands you've never heard before. What makes them think people will sign-up for audio content they have never heard before?

A single use sampling of the experience provides true motivation to buy. If customers feel that they can participate in the creation of the consuming experience they will take ownership and passionately evangelize the product, service or experience.

Bask in headlines like these, XM, because that's all you're likely to get out of this promotion.

Satellite Radio Outfit Outfits Baseball Fans

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October 20, 2005 in Advertising, Building Customer Community, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Sports, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Storytelling vs. Story-crafting

These days marketing is all about the story. It's the story of the idea that lead to the creation of your business, the history of your company, the creative uses of your product, the experience of your service, the transformation that results from your experience. Whatever it is, it's all about the story and thus the storytelling. The storytelling techniques and venues are constantly changing. Just as mass communication grew through newspapers to radio to television the new media is evolving communication and storytelling. Electronics and internet connectivity are changing the game from mass communication and storytelling to individual communication and story-crafting.

Story-crafting is different than storytelling because the listener takes an active participatory role in how they consume the story. User generated content builds on the base framework created by marketers to create new narratives that are much more powerful and relevant to consumers. A forum or blog comment section that collects customer experiences, tips, recommendations, reviews, suggestions etc. is much more relevant to consumers than traditional marketing speak generated by the in-house copy writers. Trust has shifted. Consumers believe their fellow consumers perhaps more so than the company line.

Today customers or fans self organize into different levels of loyalty and devotion to your product, service or experience. In so doing they seek out different levels of connection to your brand. Some just buy your product, some refer you to friends and colleagues, some subscribe to your email newsletter, still others read and subscribe to your blog, a few subscribe to your podcast and somewhere out there somebody wants to tatoo your logo on their body. There's a hierarchy of brand loyalty and devotion. The examples are obvious and oft written about. Apple, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Disney, Harley-Davidson, Tom Peters, Starbucks, etc.

What's needed today is a comprehensive integrated approach to the use of the new tools and communication channels available to today's marketer. The tools keep coming. It's too easy to just grow haphazardly from email newsletters to blogs/RSS to audio podcasting to video pocasting with wikis, forums, chat rooms thrown in along the way. We're seeing some dazzling failures along the way as companies attempt to use these tools without understanding how best to integrate them into an overarching story-crafting strategy.

Today's marketers need to understand new media tools and just how they can and should be used to allow customers and prospects to enter into a participatory relationship with your brand that allows them to connect at a variety of levels with your ongoing stories. Not everyone will utilize all of your communication channels but their needs to be a strategy so that all the elements move the story forward and don't frustrate customers by simply duplicating messages across different media.

That's why it pays to consider outsourcing your customer communication like email newsletters and blogs to a company like BeTuitive Marketing, LLC because we bring a lot of experience and understanding of these new media tools and can help you craft overall strategies for building your relationships and sales with your existing and prospective customers.

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October 19, 2005 in Advertising, Blog Outsourcing, Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Creating a Company Newsletter, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, How to Send an Email Newsletter, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Television, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Writing A Newsletter | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When Caller ID is a Good Thing: Automated Customer Service Phone Systems

This week I had the pleasure of calling my cable company to report an service outage. In the past I've dreaded this because they have routinely practiced what I consider the Number One Irritation with Customer Service Call Centers. The automated system asks you to enter your phone number before connecting you to a human agent who starts by asking for your phone number. Arghhh!

Caller ID to the rescue. Today's systems can readily detect a caller's phone number and pull information from a database before a call is even answered. Yes, there are times when customers call from phone numbers other than those in their customer records but those are the only callers that need to be prompted for their identifying info. Why aggravate all callers to find those few.

Caller ID can also help automated systems have better customer intuition. By identifying customers from prospects different automated choices can be offered to each individual caller. Customers with open orders can receive options for order tracking, returns, status, etc. While new prospects, those numbers not already in the customer database, can hear options for additional product information, free offers, promotions, etc. The bottom line is that technology is allowing the intuition of the entrepreneur to scale.

As an entrepreneur you answered the phone and dealt with each caller depending on the needs you perceived that they had. Now the business has grown beyond the ability for you to answer all the calls. There's no money to staff a human call center so automation is a must. Be sure your systems are as responsive and intuitive as possible. The October issue of Inc Magazine has some insight into automated telephone system vendors. Check out the small business and enterprise offerings at Angel.com

By the way, similar things can be done with email responses to your email newsletters. Email rules can be set up to automate responses and forward messages to the right people in your organization.

Inc. Magazine: What's Next: Service with a Smile. Really.

Related:
Do You Have Rules for Your Email

Building Customer Intuition Archive

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October 14, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Basics of Reading Customers: Birds of a Feather

Does your sales staff complain that marketing isn't sending them high quality leads? Maybe they need to know what good customers look like so they can better qualify the leads they are generating.

Do your CRM systems let your marketing people know what your best customer organizations look like? Often sales and marketing get very territorial about their separate data and systems. Shouldn't marketing people know what the current good customers look like so they can go find similar prospects? If organization A is a good customer it follows that organization B which looks just like organization A would be a good prospect. These organizations may be in different businesses but with similar needs or they may be in the same business yet different geographic markets.

Grouping your customers and prospects into different “flocks” based on criteria that is relevant to your business positions you to begin segmenting your mailing lists so that you can better speak to customers and prospects based on the scale of their operation, value of business they represent, geography, language, etc. Once you have a properly segmented list you can further target your communications to each different segment. Picture a trade show. You talk to each person differently based on what you learn and observe about them.

Properly managing an email newsletter program with numerous versions going to a number of segments of a mailing list adds significant complexity to your email marketing operations. But it's really the way to go. At BeTuitive our systems are set up to handle literally hundreds of different versions of client newsletters. We're finding it maximizes the ROI on email newsletters.

Related:
Basics of Reading Customers: Patterns
Basics of Reading Customers: Tone of Voice

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October 11, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Creating a Company Newsletter, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, How to Send an Email Newsletter, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Changing Music Industry: Roll Your Own Customer Relationships

No where are digital tools changing the customer relationship faster than the music business. Disintermediation is removing the recording industry(RIAA), traditional music distribution and sales (brick & mortar music stores), CD manufacturing and even radio stations from the space between the musicians and their customers (fans). These old school status quo interests aren't going quietly. We all watch in amazement as the industry sues it's former customers.

The future is unrolling around us and many musicians are finding effective ways to draw the ever shorter line that connects them to their fans. That line used to go through the record company, the recording studios, CD manufacturers, radio stations, media & PR to the fans. Now the line between musicians and fans runs from the musicians directly to their customers through the internet. New tools like blogs, wikis, podcasting, iPods, and the iTunes Music Store are allowing musicians to build their fan base in more connected intimate ways. No longer do fans have to turn to third parties like the entertainment media to quench their thirst for information about their favorite musicians. You want to know more about your favorite band? Now you can read their blog and subscribe to their podcast.

More than ever before musicians have the ability to communicate directly to their customers and build direct relationships. The permission assets of email lists, blog feed subscriptions, podcast subscriptions, etc. give bands the ability to market and deliver their story and music faster and more powerfully than ever before. Customers (fans) who are this connected will be eager to buy merchandise, attend concerts, patronize marketing partners and evangelize the brand.

The good news is more potential revenue for musicians as fewer and fewer intermediaries take a cut of the revenue. The downside is that the new skills and tools of marketing and PR are in the hands of musicians that may not be well educated and skilled at the business of promoting their creative output.

So if your teenage daughter's band is using Garage Band to record their music in the basement. You need to help her discover the new tools of the music business. Help her start a blog, start a podcast, submit her music to the Podsafe Music Network to get it played on podcasts, burn some CDs on her computer, set up to sell those CDs online through CD Baby, and open a CafePress store to sell band merchandise.

Help your young musicians to learn how to build relationships with their fans not just sell CDs. Whether they pursue their music or go into other fields the ability to build customer relationships will serve them well.

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October 2, 2005 in Blogging Tools, Blogs, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Basics of “Reading” Customers: Tone of Voice

Tone of Voice - Reading a customer' mood by interpreting their tone of voice is a dodgy thing. It requires a lot of intuition that is developed through practice and experience. Those who have lasting relationships in their personal lives may be better at this than those without long relationships. In intimate relationships this is an essential skill to understanding and communicating with your partner. In business it could be seen as simply good customer service or it could be seen as a valuable aspect of a relationship.

A good place to start developing your ability to “read” tone of voice is to be aware of how you are sending messages in the tone of your voice.

The other day I was in a bookstore cueing at the cash wrap ready to make a purchase. The clerk at the counter spent a huge amount of time helping a single customer track down a missing CD that she ordered. My patience grew shorter and shorter as time passed and the cue got longer behind me. Here was a clerk following the letter of the procedure while the spirit of good service was ignored. Finally, through no action of the clerk a manager appeared at the counter and proceeded to assist the clerk with the non-sale. Finally, she began to assist those in the cue. I was sending the message of my displeasure through body language and tone of voice. The manager simply ignored these signals and proceeded with the sales script. I can't stand it when a sales person ignores my obvious disinterest or anger and asks me if I want to apply for their membership card, a credit card or worse give them my email address. Is it not obvious that an angered customer isn't about to join a club or apply for your stores credit card? Resolve my displeasure and provide a relevant persuasive explanation and maybe I'd consider it.

Sales people are often trained to follow the procedure or script in all circumstances. Rarely are they trained to “read” the customer, determine their mood, respond or interact appropriately, build a rapport, present a viable and relevant sales proposition and convert. Twice the energy? You bet. Worth the effort? Absolutely. Better customer relationships and long term customer interest and potential loyalty.

In all your interactions today, think about your tone of voice and just what you are or are not communicating.

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September 27, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personal R&D: Reading and Discovery

Your plane was just delayed and now you have 30 minutes on your hands. What to do?

Sure you could get a coffee, browse a bookstore, watch Hurricane news on the overhead monitors or....

You can deliver as much value to your network as you possibly can. Open your email address book. Scan the list and look for connections waiting to be made. Who should be introduced. What news stories, magazine articles or blog posts have you read recently that should be forwarded to someone in your network. Don't just tickle people for the sake of keeping the relationship live. Always deliver value to the relationship. Build the understanding in your contact's mind that communication from you whether it's a meeting, email or phone call will always be worth their time.

How can you constantly be ready with something for everyone? Well, you can't. Not everyone all the time but you can be ready for the right people at the right time.

The key is managing your personal R&D. In this case reading and discovery.

Read Strategically - Let your reading list grow out of your relationship network. When considering what to read consider who you know who is reading this same thing. Scan the desks, coffee tables, bookcases, carry-on bags, purses, briefcases, etc. of your coworkers, customers, prospects, competitors, etc. Discovering what someone is reading will give you clues to how they think and thus how you can work with them and add value to their lives.

For example: You're on a flight and you meet an executive across the aisle. She's in an industry you don't know a lot about. You sense there is an opportunity to follow-up and open a sales conversation with her. You notice a copy of a trade journal tucked into her laptop bag. After the flight find and read that trade journal so that your follow-up communications can include discussions of issues relevant to her business. She will feel that you value the information she values. It's a good first step to building a relationship.

Discovery - Cultivate your curiosity. Develop your power of observation. Make a game of it. Pretend you are an intelligence officer and practice noticing everything in your environment. Look for connections, patterns and cause and effect relationships. Watch human behavior. Notice advertising. Study new products when you come across them. Meet new people. All these things will develop your social skills and help you understand differences in how people behave and react to what you say and do. Most importantly actively noticing, observing and analyzing your environment and the people around you will help to make and keep you interesting. You'll always have insightful stories, humorous anecdotes and fresh ideas to share with the people you know and those you meet.

For example: You're in sales and marketing for a software company. On the subway ride to the meeting you notice just how many people have white wires running out of their ears. iPod listeners. When walking through a customer's office you notice that many of the young staffers are listening to iPods. In conversation with your contact you learn about half a dozen training needs the company has that surround your products. On the way back to your office an iPod ad reminds you of the article you read last night about podcasting. The light bulb goes on! The next day you propose a series of podcasts addressing the training issues you learned about the day before.

It's obvious that people are drawn to those who they know are interesting, funny and insightful. It's more important than ever to be that person. Being knowledgeable is the baseline. Being entertaining, insightful and helpful is more important than ever.

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September 21, 2005 in Advertising, Blogs, Books, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Polite is A Moving Target

Reading a post over at Signal vs. Noise about overly polite customer service reminds me that polite is a moving target. Whether a customer service rep is polite or rude is in the mind of the customer not the script or training of the CSR. Some customers want all business in their transactions some want 90% socializing and 10% business. Most are somewhere in between.

The key is not to respond with blanket training and scripting trying to hit courteous or polite. Train customer intuition into your front-line staff. Teach cultural differences, geographical differences, political differences, racial differences, religious differences and any other relevant category differentiation that's relevant to your customer base. Teach the cues that can help you read a person and better communicate with them.

Armed with some understanding of who people are and what their world view is, your people can better communicate and build relationships with customers and prospects.

For example: If I meet someone new and discover through their cues (i.e. age, accent, word pronunciation, tone of voice, etc.) that they are from the south I am going to ask them different questions and show them respect in different ways than someone from the northeast. I am certainly going to ask them how they and their family have been impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

You could train sales people to strictly adhere to the scripts or you could train your sales people to be expert people readers and be ready to adapt on the fly to the many cues their customers and prospects are putting out there. Cues about who they are that can be utilized to build better relationships and better communication. Which do you think would work better?

SvN: Customer Service That's Too Polite

Related:
Thinking About Customer Service

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September 16, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Apple Knows When to Make the Best Better

Time magazine covers the sweet new Apple iPod Nano with a nice tidbit for those in marketing or product development:

It's amazing that the Nano even made it to the stage. The story of the Nano started nine months ago, when Jobs and his team took a look at the iPod Mini and decided they could make it better. On the face of it, that wouldn't appear to be a fantastically smart decision. The iPod Mini was and still is the best-selling MP3 player in the world, and Apple had introduced it only 11 months earlier. Jobs was proposing to fix something that decidedly was not broken. “Not very many companies are bold enough to shoot their best-selling product at the peak of its popularity,” Gartner analyst Van Baker says. “That's what Apple just did.” And it did that while staring right down the barrels of the holiday retail season.


So when would you make the call to redesign your best-selling product because you knew you could make it better? This is a customer interest story. Apple has built a cult following and they know how to deliver the cool to keep the devoted devoted.

Time Magazine: Stevie's Little Wonder

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September 14, 2005 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

NYT:A $79.95 Opportunity to Breeze Through Security

Incentives are at work to streamline the security screening for frequent travelers:

If Mr. Brill gets his way (and he usually does), his company's Clear Registered Traveler Program could soon have many members paying $79.95 each year to obtain an identity card that allows them to pass through airport checkpoints without being treated like a prisoner being hustled to the cellblock.


New business is seeing revenue in helping people get through the security at airports. Let the gaming of the system begin. The critics, not just the privacy activists, are making good points also:

Not all frequent travelers like the idea. David J. Silbey, a history professor who travels frequently, said that expediting the journey comfortably for the most frequent, and therefore most influential, travelers could “reduce pressure significantly” to enact necessary changes in standard airport security.


This is similar to what has happened with the terminal experience where airlines have learned that they can build special treatment pens for their frequent/good customers and let everyone else languish with an ever decreasing quality of experience in the terminal. They would charge for chairs if they could.

If you are a frequent yet un privileged traveler how do you feel when airlines cater to their “Platinum” members at the expense of everyone else? Does it encourage you to upgrade into the club or does it just add resentment to the travel experience?

NYT:A $79.95 Opportunity to Breeze Through Security

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September 14, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Customer Service=Marketing

A “spray paint emergency”(I suspect a school project) sent Seth to the local Home Depot for a horrible customer service experience. He rightly sees customer service as a marketing function. He found long lines at the registers and two(50%) broken self checkout systems. He says at least 40 people were waiting in line to check out.

The problem is their success. They don't need to fix this customer service problem unless those 40 people vote with their feet and leave the store without their purchases. Angry customers may complain but they will still buy. The customers have to deal with it because Home Depot is, well, Home Depot. Not everyone has a local alternative or if they do, like Seth, it may not be open when they need it.

What happens is that long lines and bad service simply teach people to shop at different times. “Don't shop at HD on Sunday Mornings.” If home improvement stores were as plentiful as grocery stores this could be an issue but with only one or two to a market the customers have to adjust.

Too many businesses are in this position. One day it will bight them.

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September 11, 2005 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Marketing Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Have You Read Knock Knock?

If you haven't seen this it's well worth the clicks and a few minutes reading 40 very short pages that will create a new vision for how your organization uses the web. It's a must read. It will make you think.

Knock Knock, a new free ebook from Seth Godin

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September 7, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

RFID Used to Gain Customer Intuition for British Homebuilder

A British homebuilder is using an active RFID system to study how a typical British family lives in one of their model homes. The family agreed to where RFID bracelets that tracked their movements throughout the house while they lived there. The goal is to determine which features of the design actually get used. Dinning Room? Sunken Bathtub? Basement space? Decks? Hot Tubes?These are some of the elements under scrutiny.

The standard layout of British houses derives from what people's needs were in the days before TV and 50-hour work weeks, Birbeck points out. “If it's true that today adults are only in the house and consciously awake three hours a day and that they spend half that time pampering themselves in the bathroom, what's the point of a huge living room?” he asks.

More and more technology is being used to track and understand customer behavior and preferences. Privacy advocates hate tracking systems but handled properly these kinds of systems can generate valuable insights that can help business' better serve their customers.

Sometimes it's as easy as a review of the video of customers using your product or service. What insights have technological systems brought to your understanding of customer behavior?

Business Week: Home Design

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August 31, 2005 in Building Customer Intuition, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Promotion Fatigue

Last week I had to go shopping at a clothing store I prefer to avoid. They were the only store in the area that stocked what I needed. The problem I have with this store is promotion fatigue. Their everyday pricing is clearly inflated to support their promotions. Playing their promotional games requires that you shop their stores on certain dates to receive savings coupons that are good only on certain days a month out. It's blatantly manipulative and I resent it. If you want me as a good customer don't make me jump through your arbitrary hoops. Don't make me shop on the days you want me to shop. I'll shop at your competition when I want to shop.

It's a fine line between sales and manipulating customers to make your numbers.

Have you talked to a customer lately to gauge their response to your pricing and promotion practices? Oh, look, there's a phone right there on your desk.

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August 29, 2005 in Advertising, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Customer Intuition Tools Help Swing Bad PR to Good PR

The Scobleizer points us to this post at furrygoat about an interaction with a company rep that read his blog complaints about their software product. The timely response of the company changed his mind about the product and swung bad PR to good PR all because the company was paying attention to the blogosphere. I have been encouraging people to set up Google, Technorati and PubSub alerts and watchlists for some time now. The evidence keeps coming that monitoring the conversation about you, your company and your products is essential.

Take a couple minutes, set some stuff up and see what's being said.

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August 18, 2005 in Blogging Tools, Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thinking About Customer Service

I spoke with my sister last weekend and she talked a little about her experience with hiring people for her customer service intensive business. Her greatest realization came when she realized that “good customer service” meant different things to different employees. She realized she needed crystal clear expectations that could be clearly communicated to her employees. Attitude is everything. The standard she set for her business is what she desires and expects as “good service.” This works because she is her target customer demographic while many of her employees are significantly younger than her most desirable customers. Her employees needed to know exactly what she meant by good service.

What kind of expectations do you have for customer service in your own business? Do your employees know emphatically what you expect from them where customer service is concerned? This may be for internal or external customer service. How fast are emails returned? How are phones answered? Are deadlines met? Does common sense rule the day?

Think of the last three customer service breakdowns in your area. Why did they occur? Is there a pattern developing? Is there a need for a vision clarification or more training? What can you do before problems occur and become part of your company or departmental image?

Answer the question for your company or department. What does “good customer service look like?”

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August 17, 2005 in Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

High Gas Prices Present an Opportunity for Smart Marketers

Seems to me that the recent $.18/gallon increase in average gasoline prices presents a huge opportunity for those marketers seeking to strengthen their customer relationships and customer intuition. Want to increase you response rate to promotions or customer surveys? Tie them to discounts for gasoline. Both business and consumers are ready to do just about anything to pay less for gas. Why not offer free gas or disounts to customers in exchange for some good quality data.

This can be as simple as sending out $5 gas cards for people who respond to a lengthy email survey or as complex as a chance to win a hybrid vehicle. The point is we now have a lever that can increase response rate to marketing promotions and customer intuition surveys.

High gas prices can also be leveraged by offering incentives that help move people to use mass transit. Think about offering a transit card to readers of your email newsletter who get five friends or colleagues to subscribe to you newsletter. (Ask BeTuitive how such activities can be tracked using email newsletter management)

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August 16, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, How to Send an Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Writing A Newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Todd Smart: Marketers Need to Segment and Customize Newsletters

Direct Marketing reports on Todd's recent talk at the ExactTarget eMarketing Excellence Summit in New York. Todd is “on tour” bringing BeTuitive's insight to cities across the country with ExactTarget this summer. Click here for more information about the ExactTarget eMarketing Excellence Summit.

“When we segment lists and do hundreds of versions,” the response rate is double or triple what it would be otherwise, Smart said. In fact, BeTuitive has one client that wants more than 2,000 versions of its newsletter sent each time.

DM News on Todd Smart

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August 10, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Business Marketing, Creating a Company Newsletter, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, How to Send an Email Newsletter, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Travel, Web/Tech, Writing A Newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Seating Charts Can Change History

Here's a story about the power of word of mouth and I think peer pressure from Seth's Blog:

Did you ever wonder why William Seward wasn't nominated for president instead of Abraham Lincoln?

Neither did I.

Turns out that he almost was. Except for the seating chart.

Joseph Medill was a hugely powerful figure, the editor of the Chicago Tribune back when being editor of a newspaper actually meant something. He had a falling out with Seward, and Seward made the mistake of saying to Medill, “Henceforth, you and I are parted... I defy you to do your worst.”

Well, somehow Medill ended up as the holder of the seating chart for the Republican convention in which Seward and Lincoln battled it out. And he did a very clever thing. He seated the Pennsylvania delegation, which was on the fence, in a spot surrounded by Lincoln states, far far away from the Seward states. (thanks to Peter Lamont's book on the Indian Rope Trick for the story).

The word of mouth did the trick. Pennsylvania went for Lincoln and you don't remember Seward.

Who are your customers talking to? Where do they sit?

This is an excellent point of customer intuition. Knowing who your customers are talking too is very important. That's why you need to keep an eye on them using the tools and techniques that we talk about here. Beyond that you need to be where they are to see who they associate with. Attend trade shows, study seating charts(trade show booth maps) and follow trends and developments in their industries. Best of all world is taking the initiative to create the venue where your customers can talk to one another and selected partners that will help them succeed.

Seth asks: Who are your customers talking to?

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August 6, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So, How are You Starting Your Week?

Chances are that you or your colleagues or your customers have in some way been touched by Hurricane Dennis. Why not take a moment or two this morning and make a few phone calls to express your concern and see if there is anything you as a company or individual can do to help.

Showing some concern in times of disaster is not just good business it's good humanity.

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July 11, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Current Affairs, Customer Centric | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wall Street Journal Tells Us Why We Need a Corporate Blog

I talk a lot about monitoring the value of listening to the conversation about your brand, product, service or company and I point to a lot of tools for doing just that. Here now the Wall Street Journal agrees that blogs and other forms of consumer created media (i.e. forums and chat rooms) provide very useful customer intuition that can help shape product offerings.

Marketers say bloggers' unsolicited opinions and offhand comments are a source of invaluable insights that are hard to get elsewhere. "We look at the blogosphere as a focus group with 15 million people going on 24/7 that you can tap into without going behind a one-way mirror," says Rick Murray, executive vice president of Edelman, a Chicago public-relations firm.
The article also points out why it is so important for companies to both monitor and participate in the discussions about themselves online.
Mr. Blackshaw says companies used to dismiss vocal complaints from one or two consumers as an aberration. But now, they have to pay attention because now those complainers may have blogs. "Those folks have influence with others via the Internet," he says. PR firms are hiring Intelliseek to monitor their clients, he adds, because once-obscure consumer issues are surfacing at awkward moments, such as CEO interviews with "reporters who go to Google and type in a brand and [then] ask tough questions."

If you're thinking about starting a corporate blog consider outsourcing it to provide excellent professional content, management experience and insight that will shorten your learning curve. It's easy to start the exploration. Visit the BeTuitive pricing page to get started.

Not ready to jump in? Keep track of the latest developments with e-newsletters and blogs by subscribing to the BeTuitive newsletter.

[WSJ.com on Blogs and Brand Insights]

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June 24, 2005 in Blogging Tools, Blogs, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Newsletter Content: Profile a Customer Creation

Are people doing cool things with your products? Customers are out there mixing mashing and bashing products, tools and services into new and innovative products, hacks and applications. Some violate intellectual property laws, some are very narrow in their appeal and application and some enhance the cool of customers lives. Here's one that's making the rounds of the blogs today.

A lot of people are seeing into the near future where MP3 players combine with cellphones to equip users to listen to streaming music anywhere any time.

Scott Moschella didn't want to wait so he documented a way to combine some common tools and some web services to create a way to stream his own music over his mobile phone.

DittyBot is a combination of Apple Script, Mac OS X Automator(macro applet), Skype(internet telephony) and Apple iTunes.

You send a text message from your mobile phone to your POP email account. Your text message should contain the keywords of a song title (and possibly an artist name) that you want to hear. DittyBot finds that email (he checks Mail every 45 seconds) and copies the song name into a text file. The song name is then copied into iTunes and a playlist is created from your search. Next, DittyBot loads Skype (the internet telephony app) and begins calling your mobile phone. Your mobile phone rings and when you pick it up, you should hear your song start playing in all its compressed glory. DittyBot will play your selection to you over your phone until you hang up. Mind you, this all should happen within 1 minute of sending your song request (depending on the speed of your POP server). Sometimes it’s even quicker!

While this requires some serious geek-fu it demonstrates just how willing customers/users are to make a way to create the functions and features they want.

If I was working for Skype I'd be all over this one. What a way to increase the use of their service. I'd hire Scott to write an article for the Skype newsletter or blog (if they had one.)

Customer creations like these that spread good will about your product are a great reason to have a corporate blog or an email newsletter in which to profile the creator and their creation.

[DittyBug]

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June 17, 2005 in Blogs, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Writing A Newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Do You Define A Good Customer?

My sister manages a large retail business. She is often plagued with customer service issues. Often customers volunteer that they are "good customers" and "spend a lot of money here." My sister, of course, knows the stats and she can immediately size up a particular customers total sale and compare it with what she knows is her average sale value. Often the customer feels they are spending a lot of money with her establishment and their order is but one quarter of the average sale. To the individual customer it obviously is a lot of money.

So who is right? Is a customer's perception of being a "good customer" correct or are the statistics that identify good customers based on hard numbers correct?

How do you define a good customer? Do your customers know what you think of them?

Related:
Eight Ways to be a Good Customer
More on Being a Good Customer

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June 8, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More on Being A Good Customer

Jackie Huba over at the Church of the Customer adds value to the discussion about being a good customer.

To correspond with Peter's list, I've composed eight ways to prepare for good customers:

1. Have a customer communication system - Allow customers to update their contact information easily on your website. Send a regular email newsletter to your customer list, no less than once a month.

2. Acknowledge customer correspondence - Send handwritten notes to customers thanking them for their letter. No one wins points for form letters with .

3. Reward constructive criticism - Encourage customers to provide constructive feedback. Make your contact information (phone number, email address, etc.) easy to find on your website. Send customers a small gift for taking the time to send their suggestions.

4. Profile complimentary customers - Include customer testimonials on your website and in your newsletters. Link to customers' blog posts that mention you.

5. Publish a blog - 'Nuff said.

6. Gather feedback often - Instead of the once-a-year lengthy customer satisfaction survey, send short, 5-question surveys via email to various customer segments once per quarter. Tell customers how you are incorporating their feedback to improve your product or service.

7. Track referrals - Ask every new customer or even newsletter subscriber "how did you hear about us?" Use tools like Technorati and PubSub to track what people are saying online about you.

8. Reward loyal customers - Track the purchase history of your customers. Take care of frequent purchasers not with points or discounts but with a gift product. Or an invitation to a customer advisory board. If you know the customer personally, give them something you know they'll really like.

I would agree. Thanks Jackie.

[Are You Ready For Good Customers]

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June 3, 2005 in Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Eight Ways to Be A Good Customer

Sarah Eaton over at my sister blog BeTuitive talks about being a good follower. That got me thinking. I talk about developing tools and systems that help you know more about your customers. In a sense leading your customers. As a customer are you a good follower?

Eight ways to be a good customer:
Participate in Customer Intuition Systems - Be sure you are on the company's mailing list. Make sure that they have accurate contact information for you. Subscribe to their email newsletter.
Speak Up - If you are a satisfied customer let them know. Write an old fashioned letter. It's hard to pass around copies of a voicemail or recorded call center call.
Offer Constructive Criticism - If there is a way they can improve a product, service or experience offer them constructive criticism. Even great companies have many areas that can stand improvement.
Link To Them - Of course, I'll assume you have a e-newsletter or a blog. If you like a company or product say so by linking to them and talking about why you like them.
Comment on Their Corporate Blog - show your support for a company or product you like by being active in the community and conversations they are fostering on their blogs and newsletters.
Respond to Surveys and Questionaires - If a business you value asks for your input give it to them. Yes, we're all busy these days but your input might make or break a new initiative that you would value or conversely it might save you pain and loss of time in the future.
Reffer a Friend or Collegue - Share your good experiences with your network. What goes around comes around. This is a pathway to discovering new great people to do business with.
and, of course
Buy Their Product, Service or Experience - Continue to support the businesses you value by being a repeat customer.

These are basic elements of building B2B sales relationships but it is surprising to me how few people follow even these basics.

Update:Jackie Huba adds to the conversation in More on Being A Good Customer.

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June 1, 2005 in Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Creating a Company Newsletter, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Understanding Newsletter Metrics

In the BeTuitive Newsletter this month Sarah Eaton has written a great primer to help people understand the basics of some important email marketing metrics. Understanding delivery rates and open rates is key to measuring the success of your email newsletter.

Nowadays marketing professionals can describe themselves as both mystics and mathematicians. Now we have numbers rolling off spreadsheets and coming out of our ears.

When it comes to newsletters, there are certain numbers we're fed continuously. We cling to these numbers like we're drowning. (If they go away, we might be forced to consult runes and draw archaic symbols in the dust again.)

Now that we have numbers, we don't need anything else. Numbers don't lie. They are numbers, strong and solid and true. These numbers speak to us of our success or failure.

The above paragraph is unquestionably true, but only if you add the word "accurate" before the word "numbers" each time.

The trouble with measurement in the e-marketing world is that everything is so blooming complex. There are so many behind-the-scenes variables that go into creating that poor little number on your spreadsheet that taking it at face value doesn't really do it justice.

Here are just a few of those variables, stripped down for your skimming pleasure:

[read]

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May 9, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Creating a Company Newsletter, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, How to Send an Email Newsletter, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Writing A Newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Communication Tool: PDA2speak

Pda2speakIt's late you've been traveling, speaking and traveling all day. Now you are exhausted and stuck in the cramped back seat of a cab on the way home from the airport. It's dark and just what is that smell? You've got to get your thoughts together because you need to reply to that customer's email you read on your BlackBerry while you waited for your bags. Yes, but you are too tired to type the response and besides it's too dark in this cab. It's after hours, you could call and leave a voicemail but you'd have no record of your response.

Sound familiar? Now there is a tool you can use to send voice messages by email. The folks at 2speak have developed PDA2Speak is a service that enables you to send a VoIP based voice email message from a BlackBerry or smart phone to another BlackBerry or a PC. The service also sends you a record copy.

This service is especially useful when the subtleties of human voice tone are useful or essential.

BB Hub has a quick overview here.

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May 5, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Only 3,000 Wake Up With Target

I posted before about the customer intuition flash that created an opportunity for Target to insert a marketing promotion directly into the lives of their customers. Last Thanksgiving weekend they designed a promotion that invited people to sign-up online to receive a celebrity "wake-up call" for the busy post Thanksgiving shopping days of Friday and Saturday. I thought the promotion was smart as it acknowledged the existing customer behavior (getting up early to go shopping) and delivered a fun experience for customers while communicating a brand message.

We now know the rest of the story. Target Corporations, Scott Himes reports that only 3,000 people signed up to receive the wake up calls. I speculated before that savvy consumers are increasingly aware that promotions like these despite their fine print are often vehicles to build telemarketing lists.

I still give Target credit for finding a way to insert their brand into the existing behavior patterns of their customers. Perhaps with better disclosure of how the phone numbers will be used and better overall promotion this idea will succeed in the future.

The question remains. How have you found creative ways to insert your brand or message into the existing behavior patterns of your customers?

[read]

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April 27, 2005 in Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Converting Frustration Into Good Stories

Here's a fun one. Griffin Technologies the maker of a variety of accessory gadgets for the Apple iPod has a great customer friendly policy. Rather than a costly and time consuming process of returning defective products to the manufacturer Griffin replaces the product and asks that customers destroy the defective item in a creative way and send photo evidence.

This is a great way to save costs, endear your customers and get people talking about your product and company. One recent customer used model rocket engines to destroy her non-functioning iTrip.

Destroyagriffin1

Way to convert customers frustrations into great stories about your company and customer service.

[read]

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March 24, 2005 in Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Know Any BlackBerry Toting March Madness Fans?

If you, your significant other or even your best customer are a college basketball fan and a RIM BlackBerry user here is the must have app this month. Get this to thy email app!

From BB Hub:

The NCAA basketball tournament brackets have been announced. It's possible your alma mater is one of the contenders.

If so, you'll be interested to learn that mobile device software information service Pocket Express has launched a "March Madness" feature in its $19.99 a year Express Sports feature. March Madness will show you game matchups and real-time, running scores from the NCAA Men's tournament.

As part of Express Sports' content package, March Madness is available on the BlackBerry 7210, 7230, 7280, 7290, 7510, 7520, 7730, 7750 and 7780.

To access March Madness, launch Sports, then select "Basketball (NCAA Men's)." Choose the the "Weekly" schedule option and then click on the game you wish to know the score of.

[read]

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March 16, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Sports, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Which Channels Are You On?

Are you experimenting with new ways to communicate with your customers? Are you educating yourself on the opportunities presented by new technologies like podcasting? Are you thinking about starting a blog? Wondering if there's more that can be done with your email marketing newsletter?

Sure there is information overload but there is also the opportunity to communicate faster and better than your competition. Not everybody uses every communication channel but each customer uses a mix of channels that work for them. Now is the time to broaden the available formats for your message. E-newsletters work. Blogs work. Podcasting works. It's still too early to say what the preferred channel is for your business or industry. Why not be remarkable and experiment with these new channels. It might just catch on.

Who's to say that a weekly Friday afternoon podcast of restaurant reviews, movie recommendations and a few relevant business ideas or stories wouldn't do wonders for your company image and keep your business top of mind on your customer's commute home at the end of the week. It's infotainment on a personal scale.

As you walk around the office today listen for good "radio" voices. I'll have a lot more to say about podcasting in the days and weeks to come.

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March 16, 2005 in Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Creating a Company Newsletter, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, How to Send an Email Newsletter, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Airline Websites Not Intuitive About Customers

Further evidence that airlines need help with their efforts to intuit the needs and wants of their customers. ClickZ reports on a study evaluating the customer experience of both airline and travel agency websites. The results are telling:

"But online agencies are also creating a better overall online experience for customers and this is a significant contributor to the success of these sites over airline sites. The airlines are just not fully capitalizing on their loyalty programs and direct ties to the customer."

Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, in that order, were the top three ranked sites in the study, scoring significantly higher in terms of customer experience and conversion than any airline site with the exception of Southwest.

Budget carriers Southwest and JetBlue outranked market-leading airlines in terms of both customer experience and conversion.

Airlines are not capitalizing on their direct connections with their customers. How are you capitalizing on your direct connections with customers? Would they rather buy from someone else because the experience is better or the interface easier? Time to take a close look at your own operations.

While you are at it, take a look at your competitors. Are they doing anything new this week? Have they started a blog? What does their e-mail marketing look like? Could you be doing a better job?

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March 8, 2005 in Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Creating a Company Newsletter, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, How to Send an Email Newsletter, How to do a Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reminders by Instant Messanger

SmarterChild is an interactive chat bot that among other things can provide timed reminder prompts for events or to-do items via Instant Messaging.

Try this: add the screen name SmarterChild to your IM buddy list. Message SmarterChild the word “reminder.” (If this is your first time, answer a couple of questions first about your time zone and age.) Enter “lunch with Special Friend” and set your reminder for 12:45. You’ll get an IM from SmarterChild right on time.
Instant Messaging is a valuable and underutilized tool in the workplace. If you aren't using it why not experiment with it. You just may find a new way to serve your customers with better communication.

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March 1, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bank of America Loses A Million Customer Records

Cnet news.com reports:

A "small" number of backup tapes with records detailing the financial information of government employees were lost in shipment to a backup center, Bank of America said on Friday.

The tapes contained information on the customers and accounts of the U.S. government's SmartPay charge card program, which has more than 2.1 million members and annual transactions totaling more than $21 billion, according to the General Services Administration. Reports have pegged the number of cards affected at 1.2 million.

"Federal law enforcement officials were immediately engaged when the tapes were discovered missing, and subsequently conducted a thorough investigation into the matter, working closely with Bank of America," the bank said in a statement. "The investigation to date has found no evidence to suggest the tapes or their content have been accessed or misused, and the tapes are now presumed lost."

Now that's bad customer intuition. Loosing your customer data is a good prediction of future customer behavior. It's a good prediction that they will no longer be your customers.

Last week there was a rash of stories reporting data security problems at major consumer companies.

Are you taking care to safeguard your customer data? Do you have a plan or experience dealing with a customer data loss situation? Any advice you'd like to share? Leave a comment.

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February 25, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Marketing Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Automated Systems Serve Introverts Well

Michelle Miller over at Wonder Branding tells a story that is a valuable customer insight waiting to happen. She describes her introverted husband calling Merrill Lynch's automated update line for his weekly check. When the system alerts him that he's being transfered to a customer service representative he hangs up in disgust. Michelle makes the point that introverts like to use automated systems and are frustrated when they have to deal with people.

This is a valuable insight to people designing systems to interact with customers. The experience and frustration of trying to reach a "real live person" receives more press. Designing great systems that operate well without live person to person communication serves introverted customers well.

If you have some sort of automated phone system you might research the number of calls that terminate just as they are being transfered to a human operator. If your system logs caller ID information you should check to see if the same callers call right back to try again to find the right information from the automated system.

Even at a micro scale this is an important distinction to keep in mind. We all have customers, friends and coworkers who prefer asynchronous communication(e-mail, voicemail, etc.) versus face to face or live voice communication. Don't assume in these digital times that everyone prefers interacting with a human.

February 25, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hey, You! Time for A Backup

The BBC reports that a people feel they would lose friends if they lose their cellphones and or their address book data. Would you lose valuable customer contact data if you lost your cellphone or Blackberry?

Sure, the data is not irreplaceable but who has the time to reconstruct contact information from scratch.

Time to backup your cellphone, Blackberry, PDA or card file.

February 23, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Opting-in at the Chicago Auto Show

2005_cas_logoThis past weekend I went to the Chicago Auto Show. Over the years this show has become more and more interactive as car makers attempt to scale their customer intuition efforts. It used to be that sales people from area dealerships staffed displays. There's no selling at the show but reps could collect contact info and follow-up with prospects after the show. Now trade show renta-reps dressed all in black collect addresses to mail or email brochures to prospects. Carmakers are trying various tactics to get information and a conscious or unconscious opt-in from show attenders.

Some use attractive premiums like, no kidding, giant red stuffed animals to get people to register for a free drawing. Others use higher tech methods like offering "free" pictures that require visitors to visit and register at manufacturers websites to receive their "free" picture.

These real world practices are analogous to the online challenges of opt-in e-newsletter marketing. Some offer cool premiums that drive sign-ups but have little or nothing to add to a potential customer relationship. Some use bait-n-switch like tactics to offer something for free that comes at a hidden cost. Others engage people as people and offer a fair and reasonable exchange of value that begins a lasting relationship.

So where are you on the scale? Are you building a big list with a high churn as people opt-in for a premium and then opt-out just as quickly? Are your list building tactics bordering on deceptive? As people get savvier to the techniques of list building it becomes more and more important to market real ongoing value to opting-in.

Beyond links to privacy policies, no spam pledges and required opt-out or unsubscribe links it is important to be transparent in presenting the value of being open to hearing from you in the future. Are you just looking to send out brochures and promotional email or are you looking to build a lasting mutually beneficial relationship? How do your prospective list members know what you are doing?

February 22, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Creating a Company Newsletter, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Intuiton Tool: Check Out The Customer's Neighborhood With A9

Amazon's A9 search engine has added an interesting feature to it's yellow pages function. In the top ten cities Amazon has photographed every city block. A search for a business in any of these cities now includes a picture of their location.

If you are like me the first thing I do when learning a customer's address is to drop that address into a search engine to learn who else is located at that same address. Knowing what other businesses share a building might be a good way to prompt a customer to refer you to them. "Do you know anybody across the hall at xyz corp?"

This application, while not entirely accurate at times, provides useful information about a customer's neighborhood. Planning to meet with a new customer? Why not suggest that you meet in that coffee shop you saw three doors down from their building.

On a darker note this service can also help you discover when a customer or prospect is using a PO box service or false address. Useful stuff.

try it here (click on yellow pages upper left)

[read USA Today story]

January 27, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Usability A Factor in CRM Systems

When I worked in a large non-profit organization we used a custom CRM type system that tracked interactions with over 50,000 people. I hated the system because I new things could be better, faster and more useful. In fact, I only used it to pull contact details into my own system that I used to monitor and build relationships with the 250+ people I was involved with. There was constant discussion and analysis of the system by all who used it.

Dave over at B2Blog has a summation of his experience with the different types of CRM system users that really resonates:

Power-user: One who wants to make the most of the tool they've been given and are willing to explore its capabilities. Symptom: "I think I screwed something up." Thankfully, I'm not the only one.

Power-ignorant: Those who use the software, but aren't aware how the software is there to benefit them and make their lives earlier. Symptom: "I didn't know you could do that."

Power-less: Those who simply don't understand what to do. Most likely these are field salespeople somehow. Symptom: "Can you show me that again?"

Power-trip: One who understands the software and its capability but takes short-cuts or does it the old way. Symptom: "I'll figure that out later."

These classifications apply to many different software and technology systems.

What's important here are the Tells or symptoms that indicate which category a user is in. Keeping this in mind will help you see just what the effectiveness of your system is. There are two ways to think about your CRM system. One, what are the real results, the ROI of the system. Two, what is the frustration level for the users. Are the means to the end subtracting from the end? Are productivity losses overshadowing the gains from the system?

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January 24, 2005 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The String Cheese Incident has Great Customer Intuition

SciphotoI have to admit that I had never heard of the band String Cheese Incident before I read the article in FSB magazine. Turns out this band is really crafting a new model for others in the music industry. The String Cheese Incident is a multi million dollar operation with 45 employees and revenue of $14.5 million dollars.

The story really gets interesting when you read how intuitive they are when it comes to discerning the needs and desires of their customers=fans. Not only do they publish and market their own CDs and merchandise through their website, they have fought Ticketmaster and won the ability to handle their own ticketing to their live concerts. A popular move with fans tired of paying the high Ticketmaster fees.

How else have they intuited the needs and desires of their fans? Realizing that their fanbase is not unlike that of the Grateful Dead in their desire to follow the band. The String Cheese Incident has formed a travel company to help make travel arrangements for those wanting to follow the band on tour. The appeal being that the agency knows the needs of both fans following their favorite acts and the travel needs of musicians themselves. The company also arranges travel for other bands as well.

Additionally, the String Cheese Incident supports their fans efforts to evangelize their music and bring new fans to the band by selling MP3s of their live performances on their website. The files are reported to be free of copy protection thereby enabling fans to share them with their friends.

In your own business is their a sister need that your customers have that you could help them with? It's like selling milk to go with your cereal or hammer to go with those nails.

[read]

More ways to Build Customer Intuition.

January 17, 2005 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Six Questions to Ask Customers

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US. I am reminded that the coming holidays are an excellent time to grow your customer intuition. More than an opportunity to send another tin of popcorn, the holiday season is an opportunity to connect personally with your customers. While not everyone has a lot of time to talk with you, many will appreciate the personal touch. Launch your contact manager or CRM system, pick up the phone and ask a customer these six questions:

-What have we done for you this year that has gone well and why?
-What could we have done better?
-What could we be doing better to help you and your business prevail?
-Are you aware that we (also carry xyz products, can do xyz, etc.)? This is a great opportunity to make customers aware of new products or initiatives your company has to offer. This requires some skill and tact to gauge the openness and receptivity to hearing about these new things. Over time you will be able to determine your customers openness to your verbal communication.
-Is there anything we can do for you between now and the end of the year? The last month of the year is a good time to ask for some additional business as many business leaders are spending the last of their budgets. Those who operate on a spend it or loose it budget may be especially interested in doing some year end business.
-Would you like to hear more from us about (the topic of your email newsletter)? Ask them if you can add them to your subscriber list to receive your e-newsletter.
Don't forget to thank your customers for their support and their business. Your customers may like the holiday gift you send but they will really appreciate the personal attention and interest from you even more. Who knows you may gain some new business directly from these calls. You may not even see the results until the next buying cycle. Connecting one on one improves your customer intuition.

November 23, 2004 in Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Going, Going, Gone!

Consider this, a study by U.S. News and World Report once revealed how
and why companies lose customers. Customers are lost because:

-1% die.

-3% move away.

-5% form other friendships or business relationships.

-9% switch for competitive reasons.

-14% are lost because of product dissatisfaction.

-68% quit doing business with a company because they perceive an
attitude of indifference toward them by some employee.

That's right, 68 percent of your customers may stop doing business with
you, not because your product is inferior or your location is
inconvenient, but instead, because you or your people, simply look,
sound and act like you just don't care.

A customer makes one buying decision at a time, but this "decision" is
made repeatedly. For months, years or even decades. Unfortunately, a
lost customer seldom or even never returns.

What's the lifetime value of your customer or client?

What's the lifetime impact of that loss?

Remember, a long-term, profitable business...is all about customer
acquisition, satisfaction and retention.

October 27, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Getting Practical: Building Trust From Customers

Last week USA Today reported that shopping malls across the country are cracking down on teenagers in their malls. As a response to fights and "clogged hallways" malls have curfews and escort policies that require teens to be accompanied by their parents.

There's a trust breaker. I'm sure that teens everywhere can't wait to be seen at the mall with their parents.

Beyond being bad for sales from the teens, these teen targeted unfriendly policies teach an entire generation of future adults that the mall is NOT the place for them to shop. If you alienate them at 17 how hard do you think it will be to get them through your door at 21?

Creative Graphic Management(CGM) a Chicago based printing and promotional goods company points to a great idea:

If you want to tap into this large disposable income segment, you could create a teen board to act as a focus group whether you run a mall or any entity that desires business from teens. By giving a group of teens a vested interest and a voice, it could also go a long way toward self policing and taking care of property.

But remember, teens are just as crunched for time as everyone else, so make the time they invest in your board worth their while. When they come in for focus group activities or volunteer at mall events, give them logoed merchandise as thank-you gifts. Create a cool logo for the board so the teens will be proud of being on it and want to use or wear logoed merchandise. (Let them decide between several choices what they think is cool.)

By teaching teens to trust and understand the interests of a Mall operator from the inside as part of a Teen Advisory Board you not only keep them engaged as a teen shopper but you build lasting trust and loyalty as the teen becomes an adult. With teens of course we're talking about more than just one individual we're talking about their entire social network.

Can you identify a "Trust Buster" in your own business and think of ways to turn them around?

September 23, 2004 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Current Affairs, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Building Customer Trust

I've been posting lately about Getting to Know Your Customers (and here). Customer intuition, people skills and trust building are critical skills for anyone who deals with customers. Jill Griffen talks about building trust with customers in a recent piece for Marketing Profs.

Ready to get serious about building customer trust? Form a cross-functional team of employees and, together, map out the customer development stages as they apply to your firm's products/services and identify trust builders and trust breakers inherent at each customer stage.
Identifying the critical trust builders and trust breakers and responding accordingly can streamline the process of building profitable B2B relationships.

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September 22, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on Getting to Know Your Customers

Comments from Sarah and Susan both pointed to the key challenge in Getting to Know Your Customers. Knowing when your interaction with customers is welcome and when it is unwelcome, intrusive and irritating. The key is polished customer intuition.

In his last column for Fast Company magazine, Seth Godin addresses issues of trust by comparing the actions of marketers to those of friends and family:

What would happen if your friends and colleagues treated you the way marketers do?

What if your spouse sold your personal information to anyone who would pay for it? If your boss promised you miraculous changes and then failed to deliver? If your co-workers refused to talk to you unless you spent half an hour on hold first?

He continues:

Why do we hate marketers so much?

We don’t just hate them. We ignore them. We distrust them. In fact, when a marketer actually keeps his promise to us, we’re so surprised we tell everyone we know.

He's right isn't he? Even as professional marketers we cringe when we are personally disrespected by short sighted marketers interested more in a sales transaction than building a lasting B2B relationship. And then he nails it:
Somewhere along the way, marketers stopped acting like real people. We substituted a new set of ethics, one built around “buyer beware” and the letter of the law. Marketers, in order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, decided to see what they could get away with instead of what they could deliver.
That's significant: Somewhere along the way, marketers stopped acting like real people. That's a huge clue in developing your customer intuition.

If you act like a real person and use your people skills to intuit the mood and receptivity of your customers on an ongoing basis. If customers don't return your phone calls and emails it's time to reevaluate what the possible reasons may be. Chances are it's one of three things:

Wrong Communication Style - You may be trying to get a response on the wrong channel. You may be leaving voicemail messages when you should be sending email messages or vice versa.

Information Free Communication - You may not be providing enough actionable information in your communication. You aren't helping busy people if you leave messages with no content. "Call me…" or "Just touching base to see if you have any questions." Doesn't help people. Contrary to what people request leaving just your name and number doesn't help them decide to return your call. Do you have personal friends who do this? "Hi, John, it's Jane. Call me. Bye." What she didn't say is that she's calling to see if you want to go to the movies in one hour. Without that information John might wait until tomorrow to call her back and miss the opportunity. Business people do the same thing by not offering new relevant information in communicating with customers. "Jill, this is Jack Hill. I have a new idea about how our product can help you with your xyz challenge. Please call me." vs. "Jill, it's Jack Hill. Please call me."

Not Interested - Your people skills and intuition should clue you in when someone isn't responding because they aren't interested. If you are doing the first two correctly and still no response it's time to move on. Build relationships where you can and move on when a prospect isn't interested.
These are basic relational intuition principles.

If you enter relationships looking to advance the interests of the other party then they will welcome your communication. If you provide them with a constant flow of valuable ideas, referrals, recommendations, ideas, connections and appreciation people will respond and welcome your efforts to build a mutually beneficial B2B relationship.

So before you Connect with your next customer ask yourself "What's in it for them?" What do you have to offer them. How are you earning their attention. If you have nothing for them or you only need something from them skip the connection. You risk wasting your customers time. Find a way to add value to their life and they'll welcome hearing from you.

Sign-up for the BeTuitive Newsletter to find out more about building b2b relationships.

September 21, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Getting to Know Your Customers

Have you called any customers today? Not to problem solve or sell them but to connect with them.

A simple phone call can mean a lot. Conduct a little customer behavior research by casually interviewing them. Find out what their greatest business challenge is this month. Find out where they are really succeeding. Ask them to tell you stories about what's going on in their business or industry. Ask them what they are reading.

Try and get to know them a little better. Ask open ended questions. Ask if they have any family that's effected by the hurricanes this month. This is a great ice breaker to find out some useful personal information about your client. If they say yes you can follow up asking where they are and how they have come through it all. If they say no you can easily ask where their family is located and where they grew up.

Why do this? Why take up your time and theirs? Because it offers a wealth of information you can use. Any stories you hear about a customers business can generate ideas for new or improved offerings on your part. If they face a challenge you have found your way through you might offer some sound advice that will strengthen your B2B relationship and their customer loyalty.

Personal information can inform your efforts to connect with them on their birthday. You might find out that they grew up in Kansas City. Next time you close a deal with them you might send them a bottle of Zarda's Barbecue sauce (a local favorite) as a thank you. They will appreciate the fact that you remembered a personal detail about them. The point is you can personalize your B2B relationships so that customers and prospects treat you as a friend and a business partner not just a salesman.

How do you do all this? A simple usable Customer Relationship Management(CRM) system is a must. These memory aids can be hugely valuable when it comes to tracking customer details. Most good systems allow you to track customer contact information and communication details. Notes from phone calls, emails, letters, meetings should be logged for future follow up.

CRM systems also interface with calendar systems allowing you to set memory ticklers to prompt follow-ups with contacts you are building b2b relationships with. Client casually mentions their upcoming vacation or their daughters wedding. Why not set a follow up phone call to see how everything went?

Seems simple but how many people are doing it? Everybody is busy but a few phone calls or timely emails can go a long way when trying to forge profitable B2B relationships.

Update: More on Getting to Know Your Customers

September 17, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Connecting with Birthdays

Collecting and acknowledging birthdays is a critical marketing function. Personally acknowledging a person's birthday captures their attention and connects with them emotionally. It's an opportunity to connect the relevance of your offerings to their life. Markets are becoming connections and conversations. In that context making a connection and obtaining attention are critical.

Collecting birthday information is as important as how you use it. There are many ways to collect birthday information from customers. Some are better than others. Just as people are increasingly wary of submitting their email address for fear of spam people are hesitant to submit personal information such as birthdays and other demographic information.

The key to overcoming the resistance to submitting accurate information is to earn trust and provide incentives in exchange for information. Presenting a professional image through high quality web design and professional email marketing materials projects a serious organization that readers can trust. Being upfront with privacy policies provides reassurance to hesitant readers that their information will not be abused. Incentives can be anything of value to your chosen audience that makes it worth their time and effort to sign up. In B2C markets this is often in the form of discount coupons, gift certificates, loyalty points, etc. In the B2B markets this can be special reports, white papers, e-books, .pdf files, software applets, audio files, sample chapters from books, etc.

Once you have a way to collect information from customers and prospects it's important to have a plan for how you will use the information.

In the case of Birthdays it's an opportunity to connect with people. Birthdays are a time to draw emotional lines for people. Connecting past, present and future for people creates a bond that earns attention and loyalty for your business.

Three things your Birthday acknowledgements should do:

Connect People with the Past: By providing "this day in history" type data chunks for a specific person's birthday demonstrates you value them enough to provide personalized relevant information that stimulates their memories.

Immediate Value Offering: Providing a discount or gift certificate demonstrates you value and appreciate them today as a customer or a prospect.

A Next Step Offering: Give people an opportunity to take their relationship with your company to the next level. This could be "insider" type information, a personal audio greeting from the CEO, an invitation to participate in an invitation only online forum or survey, a VIP type group membership, etc. Basically anything that provides a person with a feeling that they have a special connection to your company or brand will keep them interested and loyal to your offerings.

Birthday acknowledgements should not be a time to sell people. Don't send messages that mention a birthday in passing on the way to sell more stuff. People don't want to mentally move your company from relevant to spammer and click "unsubscribe" from your business. Birthdays are a time to strengthen the relevance not screw it up.

Find out more about what BeTuitive can do for you.

September 13, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Show Them You Know Your Stuff

Providing a small chunk of expertise free to customers and prospects wets their appetites for more. Once they know that you know your stuff they are ready to become great customers.

Chicago Web Design firm 37 Signals has compiled a graphic list of customer intuition based best practices for Holiday E-commerce web sites. This special section, designed to promote their web design services, presents examples of features they feel customers want when in holiday shopping mode.

This site works on two levels.

-Provides a resource of ideas for those looking to enhance their holiday e-commerce sites.

-Demonstrates the expertise of this design firm. The site is a great example of educating your prospects about your point of view and expertise.

The extra sauce here is the timeliness of this information. The site includes a Christmas countdown measured in days to create urgency around making sure your site is ready.

I would add to their best practices a permission based email newsletter. Why not build a list of holiday shoppers who you can remind and re-invite to your site next year.

Is there a seasonal aspect of your business? Your client's business? Can you create a timely special report that can provide value to your customers and prospects.

You can use a timely report to build a permission email list for your opt in email marketing. Simply asking interested readers to register their email address before downloading your special report is an excellent way to begin a relationship with customers and prospects.

September 8, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Find Out Who They Are and What They Are Doing Here

Like me, are you sometimes left scratching your head wondering why Amazon.com is recommending some weird stuff to you? It's probably because you purchased a gift for somebody. Amazon thinks you are suddenly into that weird music that your brother-in-law listens to. Amazon should watch the giftwrap option at checkout to see if an item is being purchased for the account holder or someone else. Gifts should have less relevance in the recommendation system.

When considering your own email marketing programs, whether you outsource your email newsletter or not you need to know why readers are interested in your product, service or experience. Is their interest personal, professional or on behalf of someone else. I for one sometimes will opt-in for targeted email marketing for products that may be of interest to my retired parents. Does this mean that I would be interested in special discount offers by e marketing pertaining to fiber supplements? NO, Mom and Dad can handle that on their own. If those email marketers would simply survey me and ask what the nature of my interest is they would know why I subscribe to their enewsletter.

Look out for anomalies in your CRM data. Young people shopping for senior focused products or adults buying toys and never having them shipped to their billing address. Follow up with these customers to figure out who they are and what they are doing with your business. You may just discover entire new markets or ways to improve your strategic internet marketing.

For more about outsourcing your email marketing sign up for our newsletter.

September 2, 2004 in Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Being Transparent Resonates with Women

There are a lot of great blogs, authors and companies talking about marketing to women. Most often marketing to women is talked about in terms of B2C business. It's very important to know that marketing to women is important in B2B business as well. Women are great B2B customers. The same sensibilities they bring to making their personal consumer purchasing decisions they bring to business purchasing. A new voice is heard in another great piece from MarketingProfs.com, Andrea Learned author of Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy—And How to Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market shares insights into transparent marketing:

Narrow your focus. Start with the narrowly defined but important group of the early adopters of your product or service. Get to know them and serve them well, and their passion for your brand will attract a wider audience...

Understand your customer community intimately. You can’t sit back and operate from within your industry’s vacuum. You’ve got to understand what influences women by exploring their wants and needs. Yes, this sounds a tad touchy-feely, but the results make it worth the initial discomfort. Two elements to consider in your research are “a day in the life” and “a day in the dreams” of your women customers.

Build customer feedback into the process. You’ve got to admit that gathering customer feedback when a product is already on the shelf is a little late. However, getting their feedback on product design changes and marketing strategies before you are too far along can save huge amounts of time and money. Plus, that in-the-process connection with customers establishes your company’s commitment to them and reflects the value it places on such input. Those customers who are involved in the early-on research will most certainly be some of your product’s or service’s biggest and most passionate fans. Of course, they’ll spread the word.

Focus on your product’s context. What are the key scenarios or life stages that the women in your brand’s customer community experience? Are they sitting around at the doctor’s office? Position your brand there in some way. Are they grocery shopping, driving on the Interstate, stopping into a coffee shop chain or going to Pilates classes? Be there as well, or figure out a way to partner with brands that are already there and are already trusted.

Understand and define your brand. Has it been a while since your company revisited this topic? Has the brand become diluted in trying to be everything to all people over the past 20 years? Remember transparency key No. 1 and define what your company does in order to be relevant to the very specific market you’ve identified. The uniqueness or specialization of your brand really appeals to a woman’s sense of being “in” on a great find and it also makes them want to tell others. For example, anyone can look up “day spa” in the yellow pages. But if your spa decides to specialize in and promote a 15-minute lunch-break pedicure service, the news will spread like wildfire and there will be no need for a phonebook ad.

Be authentic. Women have radar for companies that say they know women, and even put smiling women in ads, but don’t reflect real knowledge of which products women want (or how they want to buy them). Back up, with real effort, what your company professes. If you are in a traditionally male-dominated industry, build an advisory board of female customers. If you think your business is doing just fine but you haven’t touched base with any customers lately, think again. A lot of what female consumers are looking for in products and services has changed with the times. So find out what they need and deliver it in a way that reflects your in-depth research and interest in better serving them.

Of course, as many marketers will tell you. Meeting the needs of women customers often exceeds the needs of male customers. Meeting the needs of men gets you male customers. Meeting the needs of women gets you both male and female customers. Seems like something you ought to look into.

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August 11, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Understanding Customers Through Analytics

Nice overview of customer analytics at MarketingProfs. The article by Colin Shearer talks about four categories of analytics: Statistical analysis, On-line analytical processing (OLAP), Data mining and Text mining.

I couldn't agree more with Colin when he says:

With the massive amounts of customer data being generated every moment of every day, and the absolute necessity of carefully managing the customer relationship, analytics are no longer a nice thing to have; they are essential. The backlash against spam marketing, and new privacy legislation put into place as a result of this backlash, is forcing a more scientific approach to the art of marketing.

It will no longer be a matter of just throwing out a hook and seeing who bites; it will be about taking the time and using the right tools to truly understand customers, satisfy their needs and wants, and anticipate what they may want tomorrow.

[read]

August 11, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lessons for Succeeding with Enewsletters

Internet Retailer reports that Home Depot had 25,000 sign-ups to their email garden club in the first 24 hours. I think there are two lessons to this kind of success.

Valuable Content- The newsletter is about gardening not just Home Depot. Content provides real value to readers not just sales pitches. People have come to trust Home Depot to bring quality products and information to them.

Easily Spreadable- Clearly Home Depot touched a nerve with this offering. Gardeners are hungry for intelligent valuable information about plant material, tools, supplies, etc. Therefore gardeners are likely to network with other gardeners. Clearly gardening network hubs very quickly spread the word about Home Depot's new club.

These lessons apply to all email newsletters and especially B2B newsletters.

In order to become a must read newsletter you must provide content that is more than just company news and sales pitches. Articles that provide insight, analysis or news about industry events and trends provide real value to the readers. These are the e-newsletters that are opened an read consistently.

Newsletters need to find the right readers to be of value to their publishers. One of the best ways to do this is to make it easy for existing readers to share the value of your e-newsletter or e-zine with others like themselves. Just as Home Depot benefited from word of mouth as gardeners told other gardeners your business could benefit from your readers telling others about your e-newsletter. It starts by asking readers to forward your newsletter to people they think it would be relevant to. Did you know that this reader behavior can be analyzed and encouraged with incentives?

In fact there is a lot insight that can be gained from reader behavior. At BeTuitive we call it customer intuition. Not only do we strive to help businesses large and small provide excellent content but we also focus on developing valuable customer intuition by observing customer behavior as they interact with your email newsletter. To find out more schedule a 27 minute live online demonstration here.

August 9, 2004 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Helloooo? Anybody Home in the InBox at the 100 Top Brands

A recent study found that less than 50% of the top 100 brands answer their email sent to their info@ email address or their own email inquiry forms. Incredible.

Questions are one of the things that's going to happen when you use the web to drive interest in your brand. The more active you are online the more email you are going to receive. If your company blogs or publishes an email newsletter your readers are going to have questions or comments. Expect the email to come in.

Management would like to be more responsive but it's all they can do to keep the content fresh. "We can't answer all the mail because we're busy writing the next newsletter." This is the dilemma of online marketing teams everywhere.

Why not outsource the content and publishing of your email newsletter and blog. That would free up valuable time to respond to prospects and customers. "How could somebody else write our newsletter?" you ask. Well, at BeTuitive we have some great answers to just that question. Find out more by:

Reading about BeTuitive e-newsletter outsourcing solutions.

Scheduling a live 27 minute online demo of our e-newsletter technology.

Sign-up for our own e-newsletter. It's fast and easy just name and email address.

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August 2, 2004 in Blog Outsourcing, Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zoom in For Sales

carcamCompanies all over are finding new ways to connect with customers and enhance the buying experience. A car dealer in northern Michigan discovered a new technology at a hockey game that's providing a sales boost to his dealership.

About 40 of the on average 600 vehicles sold each month at northern Michigan auto dealer Bill Marsh Auto are now sold online, thanks in part to web cams visitors to Billmarsh.com can use to view and zoom in on cars actually on the lot. For visitors who don’t want to buy online, the feature is serving to preview cars and bring customers in the door.

This technology is proving to be extremely valuable in this remote area as customers travel up to 70 miles to visit the dealership. The user controlled features of the webcams provide prospective customers the ability to examine vehicles in detail.

Some reps even take cell phones out to the lot, showing additional detail by opening doors for an inside view, for example, at the request of online customers controlling the web cam from home or work.
Customers even use the cameras to zoom in on windshields to see the one price sticker on the vehicles.

Everywhere technology is changing how customers and business relate. As people become more and more comfortable using the web to make large and small consumer purchases their willingness to use the web to engage in B2B relationships increases.

[read]

[Bill Marsh Automotive Group]

July 28, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Customer Power

bloggerbutton1When I first started blogging over two years ago I started using the Blogger system. At that time the company button that appears on sites created with the service stated "powered by Blogger" as so many software related products do. Now the button reads "I Power Blogger" this is a not so subtle acknowledgment that customers drive the business.

Do customers really power your business? How do they know that?

July 23, 2004 in Blogging Tools, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Find What Touches Customers

hotel-lucia-rooms-newJason Fried over at SVN writes about hotel Pillow Menus.

At Hotel Lucia in Portland they have a “pillow menu” where you can select from soft, firm, firmer, and hypoallergenic. At the Sheraton in Seattle they have 7 pillows on a queen sized bed. What’s with the new infatuation with pillow options? I suppose it’s probably a good idea, but I just find a little humor in a “pillow menu” and 7 pillows on a single queen bed. One thing I have noticed, however, is that the quality of beds at hotels is improving.[link]
What's remarkable here is the opportunity hotels have to track this information about their customer's preference and stock the room with their preferred pillow selection on the customer's return visit.

Hotels are discovering that the greatest touchpoint a guest has with their business experience is the head/bed interface. Great attention is being paid to this interface-the pillow. In your own business are you actively identifying and tracking the greatest customer touchpoint? Perhaps it's the relationship with the sales staff person or the way your product is packed for shipping or the value add of the industry knowledge and education your company shares with customers. Whatever it is you need to find the "pillow" or what Seth Godin calls the Free Prize for your business. Not what you think is the most valuable touchpoint for your customers but what your customers consider to be the most valuable touchpoint for them. Once you find it, polish it and make it remarkable. Seven pillows on a queen sized bed was enough to start Jason Fried talking.

So what is it? What is the "pillow" in your business? Share with us in the comments what you have found is the single greatest customer touchpoint between your business and your customers.

July 22, 2004 in Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bezos Goes With His Intuition

On the train this weekend I had a chance to read yet another Jeff Bezos cover story from the August Fast Company magazine. The article written by Alan Deutschman covers a range of subjects related to Bezos. Of interest were insights into how Bezos trusts his instincts and intuition about what is good for the long term satisfaction of Amazon customers. Clearly Bezos is into "leap of faith" kind of decisions when it comes to serving the interests of customers:

What really distinguishes Bezos is his harrowing leaps of faith. His best decisions can't be backed up by studies or spreadsheets. He makes nervy gambles on ideas that are just too big and too audacious and too long-term to try out reliably in small-scale tests before charging in. He has introduced innovations that have measurably hurt Amazon's sales and profits, at least in the short run, but he's always driven by the belief that what's good for the customer will ultimately turn out to be in the company's enlightened self-interest.
However he also has a strong reputation for measuring the performance of new features and programs.
"One of Jeff's most recurrent phrases when someone has a good idea is, 'We can measure that,' " says Stonesifer. But, she adds: "It's one thing to be a data junkie who just looks at history, but Jeff takes a prospective view. He takes risks and he changes and changes."

Sometimes, Bezos says, you can't rely on facts because it would be too hard to test an idea, or too costly, or you can't figure out how to do it. And "sometimes we measure things and see that in the short term they actually hurt sales, and we do it anyway," he says, because Amazon managers don't think the short term is a good predictor of the long term. For example, they found that their biggest customers had such large collections of stuff -- especially CDs -- that they accidentally ordered items they had already bought from Amazon years ago. So they decided to give people a warning whenever this was about to happen. Sure enough, the warnings slightly reduced Amazon's sales. But it's hard to study the feature's long-term effects. Would it reduce sales over a 10-year period? They didn't think so. They thought it would make customers happy and probably increase sales. "You have to use your judgment," Bezos says. "In cases like that, we say, 'Let's be simpleminded. We know this is a feature that's good for customers. Let's do it.' "

Amazon faced similar dilemmas with its dramatic moves to cut prices and offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more, which is very costly for the company. "You can do the math 15 different ways, and every time the math tells you that you shouldn't lower prices 'cause you're gonna make less money," Bezos says, laughing inevitably. "That's undoubtedly true in the current quarter, in the current year. But it's probably not true over a 10-year period, when the benefit is going to increase the frequency with which your customers shop with you, the fraction of their purchases they do with you as opposed to other places. Their overall satisfaction is going to go up."

Clearly, Bezos makes decisions based on what is in the long term best interest of it's customers. It's a vision thing. Bezos' intuition tells him that serving the best interest of his customers over short term sales performance wins the day. Another example:
From Amazon's early days, his vision was "to create the world's most customer-centric company, the place where you can find and buy anything you want online." Within weeks of first publishing customers' reviews of products, Bezos says, "I started receiving letters from well-meaning folks saying that perhaps you don't understand your business. You make money when you sell things. Why are you allowing negative reviews on your Web site? But our point of view is we will sell more if we help people make purchasing decisions."link
When you are making decisions about your company and your customer communications are you looking out for their long term best interests? Educating customers and prospects is perhaps one of the best ways to look out for their best interests. Knowing more about your industry and specifically the problems and opportunities your products or services address is a powerful way to link customers and prospects to your brand. E-newsletters provide a great opportunity to provide world class communication and education in a format that is completely trackable and measurable.

What innovations or ideas have you implemented where short term analysis proved negative but the long term interests of customers carried the day?

July 19, 2004 in Advertising, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Customer Intuition Tools, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tips for Developping Customer Evangelists

Ben Silverman over at PR Fuel offers some good stories of customer evangelism and some good tips.

Tips for evangelizing:

1. Offer an incentive program to existing customers that gives them free product or service in exchange for signing-up new customers.

2. Let people in the press try your product and get feedback from them - even if they're not writing about it. A few years ago, I beta tested a new online service and wrote a scathing review for the PR people. When the product launched, some of my suggestions were put into practice and I received a note of thanks from the CEO (I wasn't a member of the media at the time).

3. Reach out to your best customers. If you offer a service or product to businesses and you have key customers who express happiness with your product/service, keep in contact with these people and see how the product/service can be improved. Offer them perks in exchange for testimonials (or simply ask). When I worked for a dot-com I saved our company more than $10,000 by simply referring customers to one of our vendors. The salesman for the vendor was more than happy to give my company a discount after I helped him generate a few hundred thousand dollars in sales.

4. Create an outreach program in conjunction with your marketing department. T-shirts, hats, stickers, coupons, etc. sent to your company's biggest fans is a great way to garner some cheap attention.

5. Internally, foster a feeling of good will in the company and evangelize your own workforce. The PR department needs to act as internal barometer and help keep spirits high and the company improving. If you're outside the company, much sure your firm believes in your client. If your workers have concerns about a client, address those concerns. There's nothing worse than talking to a PR person who obviously doesn't like their client.


Of course these are exactly the kinds of things that can be communicated with e-mail newsletters and company blogs.

[link] via

June 28, 2004 in Blog Outsourcing, Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Marketing, Email Newsletter, Email Newsletter Outsourcing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Newsletter Marketing, Opt-in Email Marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Work Different - Observing Millenial Work Habits

In keeping with the theme of the last post about my nephew I came across this post about characteristics of "millenials"(those born between 1980 and 2000) from Fred Dust's Neocon Keynote.

Wheras 'Gen-X' grew up with computers; the Millenials are growing up with pervasive mobile computing, which has drastically redefined their social norms. New kinds of etiquette have formed, such as 'dynamic scheduling'-- it's no longer rude to be late, as long as you are in constant communication via mobile phone or text messaging. Even when in the actual presence of others, it is not uncommon for the mobile phone to be of equal (or greater) importance. Fred saw this as a sign that this generation may be the first to see successful distance collaboration in a work context. Another observation is the 'total blur' the Millenials form between work & life. This generation is very good at multitasking and prefer to blur fun and work, and are able to tune out distractions when necessary. An example was given of an arcade that is concurrently used for doing homework-- and the students are able to segue from Trigonometry to Dance Dance Revolution (and back) seamlessly. A final trend to note is the emergence of 'evolved abilities'-- millenials have highly developed abilities in information management. Their abilities in non-linear thinking allow them to process multiple tasks at once and their comfort with technology allows them to expand their skill sets with ease.

Those who understand these new work habits and build their B2B communications with these in mind will find acceptance among young tech savvy knowledge workers.

[link]

June 23, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lead Me

cardealersYesterday I had occasion to drive past the dealership where I purchased my current car. The dealership is owned by a friend of a friend so I feel good about the deal I got all these years later. What I remember most was this friend of a friend having me work with one of his new sales people. A month after the sale I received a phone call from the sales person and then a Christmas card a few months later. Then...nothing. I haven't heard from the sales person or the dealership again despite having the same address and phone number. What's missing? A lead nurturing program. In this case one that lasts years. Sooner or later I am going to buy another car.

What techniques do you find helpful or not helpful in nurturing sales leads?

June 17, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Farming vs. Hunting

coinsI recently met with my financial manager who has an excellent understanding of building customer relationships. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss a realignment of financial instruments that would result in the elimination of his ongoing management fees. Was he laying me off as a client? Certainly not! He is smart enough to act in the best interest of his clients even when it results in lower fees from those clients. This is the best practice since his business is built on trust and referrals. I trust him and feel even better now that I've seen yet another example of how he supports my best interests. Will I refer him? Absolutely! That's the payoff for him. He realizes that his desire to be a "farmer" gently nurturing and tending client portfolios is evolving into more and more "hunting" finding new clients and setting up investments that will serve their needs. Of course the path to new clients is through existing clients.

Have you demonstrated your care for your clients best interests lately?

June 16, 2004 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Know Who Your Customers Are

Jennifer Rice over at What's Your Brand Mantra has an interesting post about knowing who your customers are not just where they are. Are you providing different customer service and support to the same people at different times and places?

Think about who your customers are, regardless of what product they use during what hours of the day. Get out of the weeds of features/benefits and talk to them like the real people they are. Earn their trust. Be likable. If you sell 'business-world' and 'home-world' products or services, stop compartmentalizing: it's quite likely that the very same customers purchase both. Identify your most valuable customers across product lines and figure out how to give them a consistently good experience with your brand. It's a different way of thinking. But when you align yourself to your customers instead of making them align themselves to you, you'll become a much more attractive choice.

May 26, 2004 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sony Sees the Gap Closing

Sony Chairman and CEO, Nobuyuki Idei sees the future clearly when he says:

"I think there is going to be a huge change in the electronics industry in 2006. As the information gap ceases to exist, the power of each individual has become stronger than in the past when corporate PR still worked, and it will get even stronger in three to 10 years. Except for some countries, the era of mass production is being replaced by a power shift to individuals," which would change the way products are chosen, he said.[link]

Sony is waking up to the fact that users want to be able to customize their devices to work with other devices through their home networks. Feature choice and customization are the future. Just as IBM realized that technology services rather than hardware goodies are the key to the future of their business Sony is beginning to see that their business is less about the number of shrink wrapped units sold and more about building a communication infrastructure. Helping people navigate the complex world of technology and entertainment creates valuable bonds with customers. It's one thing for someone to buy a cd player. A customer is prepared to become a loyal customer evangelist when they are informed and educated about how that new cd player works with their existing media library and network of computers and electronic devices. Sony is learning that there is power in customers telling the story of how their Sony stuff works with all their other stuff. The key is internal and external communication. Customers want information.

The closing information gap he is talking about is the ability customers have to find out information about products and services via the Internet. Whether from corporate websites, comparison/review sites, enthusiast sites or shopping sites information abounds online. No longer is product information controlled exclusively by manufacturers and sellers.

Old school centralized corporate PR no longer works. Nuanced sophisticated PR and communication strategies do work. What's important is to know clearly what the techniques and strategies are. As email marketing and blogs proliferate the fact that content is king is more true than ever. You can produce all the content you want but unless it is of the highest value to your audience it will soon be lost in the shuffle.

At Betuitive Marketing we produce the highest quality content for our clients by establishing relationships with industry leading experts who develop custom content. If you are just starting out in the realm of emarketing or if you are looking for a way to maximize your early successes why not see what Betuitive can do for you. Spend three minute and get a price quote. Marketing communications is hard work. Why not consider outsourcing all the work?

May 24, 2004 in Blogs, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Educating Clients and Prospects, Email Newsletter, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tip Blogs Help Keep Customers Informed

Kodak which has been struggling to adapt to the changing imaging landscape has a bright spot, Ofoto.com. Ofoto is a service for uploading and printing digital images. The service includes many offerings including picture frames, photo cards, online photo albums, etc.

Recently they have started a tip blog to help customers of it's new Mac uploading application called Brownie. A good tip blog turns customers into collaborators when it comes to refining a product. Discussions that occur on blogs provide valuable feedback that may never have been gathered before.

Are there other tip blogs that you think are helpful?

May 19, 2004 in Blogs, Business Marketing, Corporate Blogging, Customer Centric, Educating Clients and Prospects, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Going Customer Centric

best-buy-sm

Brick and mortar retailers are seeing the light of customer centricity. Electronics Big Box retailer Best Buy is experimenting with entire stores tailored to the specific psychographics of their most profitable customers.

Though largely indistinguishable from the outside, the prototypes feature distinct fixtures, flooring, signage, background music, services and even sales floor uniforms, according to retail securities analyst Aram Rubinson, whose team at Banc of America Securities recently visited nine of the test stores.

The analysts noted five different store types:
Soccer mom: These stores featured brightly colored signage, play areas for children, educational toys, in-wall appliance displays and provided personal shopping assistants.

Swinging single: These stores placed greater emphasis on higher-end and more cutting edge CE, and featured separate rooms with full home entertainment vignettes and enhanced A/V assistance.

Cherry picker: Aimed at technophiles on a budget, these stores appeared to offer the most promotions and incentives, and the best financing packages.

Gadgeteer: Geared toward teens and twenty-somethings, these stores emphasized cellphones, music and movies, home theater, gaming and mobile audio.

Small business: Signed "Best Buy for Business," these stores have an expanded computer section and Geek Squad presence, plus central help islands staffed by associates wearing blue collared (vs. knitted golf) shirts.

This is a sign that the offline world is looking to be as customer centric as the online world. "It's all about you, customer," is the new motto. It's one thing to capture all of that lovely CRM data it's another to reshape the entire enterprise based on those learnings.

The challenge is that redesigning the physical stores for particular customer types doesn't necessarily match with shopping patterns. What if a profitable and vocal (via his blog) "Gadgeteer" lives near a store that is suddenly turned into a "Soccer Mom" store. Will the Gadgeteer be turned off to the whole Best Buy company? It is unlikely that he will regularly drive across town to a "Gadgeteer" store. Defining your customers is fine, but you must do it very carefully or in this connected world you may face unanticipated consequences.

While custom customer experiences are difficult in the offline world, tailoring marketing communications to individual customers or groups of similar customers is much easier online. In fact, all your customers can have unique brand experiences while being informed and educated about the same products and services. The biggest example here is Amazon.com. Amazon uses sophisticated technology and powerful databases to serve up unique page views to it's thousands of customers. Smaller enterprises can achieve similar customization by allowing customers to self select into a category for communication. From different homepages based on customer categories to custom weekly e-zines, the possibilities are endless. Is your enterprise making the most of the options for customer centric communications?

[link]

April 29, 2004 in Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Customer Centric, E-Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, Strategic Internet Marketing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack