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Knowing When Customers are Online

imwatchingDo your customers have AOL Instant Messaging? A new service profiled in the New York Times can help you discover patterns in their online connectivity.

A new site, IMWatching, lets you enter the screen-names of up to 40 people whose activity on AOL Instant Messenger you want to track. The site, which is not affiliated with AOL, collects what it calls "presence data," or information on when those users sign on, sign off, go idle or flag themselves as being away.

Because the users being tracked are not notified, my first impression of the service was Big Buddy Is Watching You. But many IM users will probably find it useful. And it can be blocked by adjusting the visibility preferences in your IM client.

"I realize this application is borderline-scary," said the service's creator, Gregory Harfst, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "But you can't browse screen names or track people you don't know."

While some will feel that this technology is intrusive it is possible for users to block the service and people are beginning to realize that everything they do online can be seen and tracked by others.

Knowing when and how long your customers spend time online can give you insight into their level of comfort with the Internet among a host of other insights. IMWatching is another tool to help build your customer knowledge and customer intuition.

[regreq link]

July 30, 2004 in award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, build credibility, Business Marketing, CMO, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Embarassing Lesson in Originality



Both Dell and Gateway are getting an embarrassing lesson in the value of creating custom content for marketing communications. Whether it's the use of stock photography or the creation of email newsletter articles fresh relevant high quality content wins the day.


July 29, 2004 in audio publication, blog publish, Building B2B Relationships, Business newsletter, CMO, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tracking Down Your Ex Customers

cellkeysA company called Accudata Technologies has come up with a system to help wireless phone companies locate their former customers. From the article:

To get help from Accudata, carriers will first need to send a list of former subscribers to the company. The OCNL[Operating Company Name Lookup] service enables Accudata to search out and locate specific subscribers in North America that have moved on to other carriers by accessing several databases. Accudata pledges to locate and provide subscriber information to its clients within a 24-hour period. The company says the carriers can use the information to contact former subscribers and try to win them back, say by offering them a better deal than they switched for.
The key to approaching former customers is to know why they switched in the first place. If it is a cost issue then systems like this may enable companies to win back some subscribers. If it's a customer service issue expect harassment complaints that may do more harm then good.

Rather than chase customers who have a reason not to use your product or service why not spend the money keeping and building relationships with the customers that you do have and making it easy for them to evangelize your business to others. This is just some of what you can do with a well written B2B email newsletter.


July 28, 2004 in award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business credibility, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, Web/Tech | 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.


[Bill Marsh Automotive Group]

July 28, 2004 in award winning newsletter, Award winning publications, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Brand enhancement, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, CMO, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Build Your Customer Intuition with Google Adwords

google_smallAn intelligent use and analysis of the Google Adwords program can provide valuable customer intuition. Brian Teasley over at Click Z has some suggestions.

Knowing What Words Appeal to Customers
By creating a series of keyword ads aimed at specific landing pages on your site it is then possible to track what visitors do once they are on your site.

In addition to the number of searches on your words and the CTR[click through rate], you can tie data from a Web-related event on your site to the ad data to get an even better measurement on what keywords work best for you.

For example, you can measure how many people who viewed your ad ended up on the "Thank you for ordering" page. This, of course, is a measure of what percentage of people from each keyword (or group of keywords) purchased from your site.

Reading the Minds of Customers

AdWords can provide more than a simple analysis of your keywords. It offers a tool that suggests other words Google searchers have entered in combination with the keywords you already thought of.

At a minimum, this information is like focus group members telling you what phrases are on their minds when they thinking about your product or service. In the best possible scenario, this is your focus group telling you about other possible applications of your product or service -- ones you might not have even thought of yet!

Testing Customer Appeal
Again, by tracking the effectiveness of different keywords and ad formats you can test the effectiveness of different offers.

If you were a large telecommunications company, this provides an opportunity to quickly test whether a "Free Camera Phone" offer might outperform a "Free Blackberry Device" offer. If you're a consultant or professional service provider, you might test a "Free Analysis of Your Business" offer against a "Free White Paper Report" offer. The possibilities are endless and will vary depending on your business. [read]

Google Adwords joins other tools for developing your customer intuition.

July 27, 2004 in audio publication, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, CMO, 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 award winning design, Award winning publications, blog publish, Brand enhancement, Building B2B Relationships, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, CMO, 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 Blog Outsourcing, Brand enhancement, build credibility, Building Customer Community, Business Marketing, Business newsletter | 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 audio publication, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Brand enhancement, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, bulk email marketing, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, CMO | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senagal Wishes for Rain in France

Buried in this Wired News story about French firms outscourcing their telemarketing to the french speaking sub-Saharan African nation of Senegal is a mention of how local weather information is valuable customer intuition for telemarketers. From the article:

"The center works with a local college to make its telemarketers' accents as neutral as possible. And it checks Internet weather reports so callers can refer to the weather or concentrate their efforts on a specific area if it is raining there and people are more likely to be indoors."

July 19, 2004 in Blog Outsourcing, build credibility, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Staying Alert to Your Customers

google_smTechnology provides so many excellent tools to help us know more about our customers. One of the simplest and perhaps most useful is the free Google News Alert. Google will automatically search for news about a topic you specify and email you a list of relevant stories on a daily basis. You can use these to keep tabs on your favorite celebrity but more importantly you can use News Alerts to develop your customer intuition. Set up several searches for relevant media mentions of customers, prospects and competitors. News Alerts will keep you current on breaking news regarding those you are growing a business relationship with. Being aware of news about customers equips you for timely follow up with them. Positive or negative media mentions are opportunities to strengthen your relationships. Calls, emails or written notes of congratulations may be in order. An offer of assistance might be appropriate in the face of bad news. Either way Google News Alerts can keep you in the know.

Google News Alerts can even provide valuable customer and industry insights to use as content in your B2B email newsletter.

July 16, 2004 in award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack