Website Goal? 6 Tips for ALL Ecommerce Companies to Capture EVERY Visitor to Your Website…


One of the universal truths I see is a lack of understanding by many marketers, from newbie to experienced, of what their website is really for. I know, I know, marketers always say the right thing: It’s about conversion. When I look at their website and ask them what their site conversion rate is, I hear them proudly state, “I convert 2 percent, look how good I’m doing!” (And of course some marketers don’t even know what their site conversion rate is.)

Here’s a better goal: Click here to see the full article on Retail Online Integration Magazine’s site.

Want more info on Gilbert Direct Marketing, including a FREE website review?  Use the form below…

These two presentations on Social Media made it to the homepage of slideshare.net.


I love it when a plan comes together.  On Friday and today my presentations made it up to the top of slideshare.net’s home page.  Check them out:

 

Paid Product Warranties: Two Marketing Case Studies one good and one horror story


UPDATE: Right after this article was published, I got a call from someone at CompUSA.  They told me two things.

1. That the CompUSA I was writing about was out of business and the NEW CompUSA would never treat customers with warranty issues so shabbily.

2. That they had made arrangements for me to get a new TV for all my troubles.

I will write more in my next article, but for now, I just wanted to let you know that on Thursday i received a new TV as a replacement for the 4 years of fighting with their (well actually the OLD CompUSA’s) warranty company (Assurant Solutions).

Warranties, especially the paid variety can be a mixed bag.  Last week I had two warranty experiences that were unbelievable.

The first was a horror show.  4 years ago I bought a TV through CompUSA.  I bought their 4 year TAP (Total Assurance Protection plan, I think it was called.).  The warranty was expensive costing nearly 20% of what the TV cost.

The TV was a lemon from day one.  There was an intermittent problem with the sound.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes not.  The way the CompUSA warranty was structured, I had to jump through way too many hoops to prove the TV was a lemon.  Long story short, I was forced to have 3 separate companies come and fix the TV.  Guess what… each time the repair companies came, the sound was back on.  Two of the repair companies came in more than once; one time taking the TV back to their shop for 2 weeks while I was going on vacation to “see if they could recreate the problem”.  Nothing!  Each time I documented the case with CompUSA’s warranty division and did everything they asked for.  And each time I requested a new TV only to be told that I hadn’t met the criteria for a replacement.  I was even told there was nothing wrong with the TV as they couldn’t find a problem when the repair companies showed.

I wonder if the good folks at CompUSA get the concept of intermittent.  Each time I was called I was treated with indifference by people like they hated their jobs – people who clearly had no business dealing with the public.

3 weeks ago right after the warranty ended, the sound went out yet again.  I figured that with all the documentation, even though the warranty ended I could get a repair company out.  After all, this was and ongoing issue right?  Wrong.  Like a mantra, all I got was “I’m sorry Mr. Gilbert I cannot help you since your warranty ended”.  Finally after pleading for 15 minutes for someone to treat me like a real human being, (spoke to the supervisor too), I gave up.

So CompUSA, if you are listening, be prepared to be tweeted, yelped, facebooked and anything else I can do to let people know that you don’t stand behind your products and your people, well, suck!

On the positive side of paid warranties, there is Apple.  My 2 year old iPhone died.  Wouldn’t take a charge.  One 10 minute call to Apple Care (they made an appointment at my local apple store when they couldn’t help me fix over the phone), and a half hour in the apple store, and I walked out with a brand new iPhone.  I was treated with respect by a caring, smiling human being who honored my warranty.

So Steve Jobs if you are listening… Thank you!!!  And to CompUSA, learn!

Your company’s product guarantee policy: reducing the barriers to purchasing


Some years ago I worked for a clothing cataloger that offered a no strings attached, lifetime money back guarantee.  Occasionally we received a tattered well used article of clothing back 2-3 years later, but mostly the guarantee worked for us.  We were pioneering organic fiber fashion and as a company wanted to do everything we could in order to reduce the risk that could have a negative effect on a purchasing decision.

A good solid guarantee is an important part of the selling process.  It tells the consumer that you stand behind your products and you are truly focused on your customers needs.  Showing your guarantee prominently on your website and your catalogs makes good sense, and in my opinion should be heavily promoted as part of your offer.

Also in my opinion, and I cannot stress this enough in the age of social media, is for management to offer the best possible guarantee they can, and then back it unconditionally.

Take a look at your company’s warrantee.  Is it clear, simple and to the point?  If not then simplify it.  Make it so easy even a child can understand it.  Why?  The internet and social media are the great equalizers and simple things like upsetting a customer with a hard to understand guarantee, will wind up being tweeted, Yelped and status updated.

Florida Direct Marketing Association Presentation on Facebook


This is the latest presentation I did for the Florida Direct Marketing Association.  Entitled Facebook: Breaking the Sales and Engagement Myth, it is a case study on how The Fresh Diet builds engagement, trust and sales on their Facebook page.  We had over 100 people in attendence, once again for the 2nd time in 3 years I have lead off in January with a home run for the FDMA (every once in a while you have to pat yourself on the back right?)

How to Mess Up a Perfectly Good Customer Experience


As a marketer, you should be overly concerned about how your customers experience your brand, products and customer service. I evangelize how in the internet age it’s very easy for a company to wind up getting skewered via social media.

But all isn’t the same out there. I come across businesses daily who don’t have their proverbial act together. All could really learn some lessons on how customers must be king or else.

I love to go to the movies. The local theater I go to recently underwent a complete makeover, including new, wider reclining chairs; a bar with real food and alcoholic beverages; and more. This theater already had a really great loyalty program in place: it seemed for every couple of movies I went to, I wound up with a free ticket. Very cool!

Even more cool (guilty pleasure alert), it actually used real butter on its popcorn. Oh, and free refills. And it was never too crowded like the mega-giga-multiplex in town where you need a shuttle bus a la Disney to get from the parking lot to the theater.

Enter Frank Theatres a few short months ago and the mega-giga-multiplex doesn’t look so bad. It upped the price of a movie ticket by a few bucks, made it harder than winning the lottery to get a free ticket via its points-based loyalty program and in general tortured me as a customer by making the $6 popcorn nonrefillable. Now you have to buy the $7.50 size (maybe you city folks pay that for 30 cents of corn, oil and seasonings, but down south here that’s a big jump) in order to get refills. I’m pretty sure the $6 bag and the $7.50 bucket are about the same size, so why not just charge me $1.50 for a refill and stop with the subterfuge already.

I won’t even tell you about how customers are supposed to understand how to wait in one central line for the candy counter until the next person is called without any velvet ropes or a queue. Ridiculous! Is it one line or three lines? This is for sure going to turn into a fistfight one day soon because people try to form three lines only to be told they’re cutting the line.

The kicker: I took my family to the movies last weekend knowing I’d drop close to $100 for the latest 3-D flick (an additional $3 just to use the theater’s 3-D glasses), but I couldn’t even use a $100 bill. The girl at the ticket booth told me flatly, “We don’t take that, it’s our policy.”

So by now the moral of the story should be obvious — wait for the movie to come out on cable. Wait, that’s not it.

The moral is your customers have expectations. If you meet or beat those expectations, you’ll do well in business. If you don’t, there will likely be consequences — i.e., lost sales. Your customers are creatures of habit. They like their little creature comforts. If you take them away, they tend to get upset and take their business elsewhere.

So a note to Frank Theatres: This is the internet age. Get it together or deal with some very vocal customers who like what they like. If it’s going to take over another theater, keep the customs of that theater or risk losing business (or at least go with gradual change). It’s OK to add to a better user experience. Be careful that progress isn’t taking one step forward and two steps back.

The Postal Rate Commission (PRC) Denies Exigent Postage Rate Increase … Big !@#$ Deal


Recently, The Postal Rate Commission denied the US Postal Service an exigent postage increase.

So, OK, now what?

So, Direct marketers aren’t getting slammed with another 5 percent-plus postage rate increase in January. Big whoop-de-doo. Postage is still the biggest expense in all my clients’ mail campaigns. And the cost of mailing vs. the risk of the unknown is still the biggest reason marketers shy away from the direct mail channel.

The second biggest reason? Well, everybody has heard the horror stories. All that money spent on killer creative, design, lists, printing, postage, and then the campaign bombs.  And then everybody talks about how the campaign bombed and direct mail sucks.

OK, so many of those direct mail campaign “bombs” forgot to follow the basic principles of the business — i.e., the 40/40/20 rule. They probably did the creative first and then figured out lists last like most companies I see do.

This kind of activity perpetuates the urban legend that direct mail doesn’t work. Well, except for a few companies. Those companies, you know, the junk mailers, the big companies with unlimited budgets who don’t care about results and just want to build their brand images… they are the ones who do well.

Now I won’t even get into the whole environmental argument of direct mail not being green. Believe what you want, but that’s a myth. The direct mail and paper industries are ultracautious to replenish the environment.

And let’s not forget about our internet marketing brethren, who have done such a wonderful job throwing direct mail under the bus, positioning it as passé or old school, while they prop themselves up as the future of direct marketing. I won’t even go there today.

Let’s face it, direct mail has a bad reputation. But that can change. Here’s how:

The smartest thing those wunderkinds at our beloved Postal Service can do is nurture the direct mail industry. Imagine what would happen if the USPS actually offered discounts for online marketers to give direct mail a chance? Now imagine the same thing happening with small and emerging businesses. How many companies would try direct mail if the risks were reduced? How many tests? How many rollouts?

And what about nurturing those retailers who still use direct mail as a major part of their marketing programs? Sure, the USPS has tested some “Summer SalesOpens in a new window,” which is a move in the right direction, but it’s time for the Postal Service to stop dipping a toe in the water and give volume mailers an opportunity to push their circulations up. Seasoned mailers know the results are there, they’ve just been beaten down by a constant barrage of postage increases.

More importantly, over time, how many direct mail pieces are needed in circulation to drive additional revenue for the post office? Some way the USPS is going to have to get itself out of the bureaucratic hole it’s dug for itself.

Hey, I’m not dreaming here. It’s a simple business model: high costs = less volume, lower costs = increased volume.

The USPS has traveled the higher-priced road before, and in the process did an amazing job of building up the internet and literally exploding the size of the online marketing community (to which it offers thanks, by the way).

Maybe now it’s time to think things through and encourage more mailers and subsequently more volume. And inevitably if they do it right, more (well, to be fair … SOME) profits.

What Multichannel, Direct and Ecommerce Marketers Can Learn From the Way Old-School Retailers Do Business


This week I want to tell you a story, and pay tribute to a local businessperson who recently passed away.

I don’t live in a particularly small town (about 200,000 residents), but for the last 16 years — since I moved to Florida — I’ve been a regular patron at Howards, a local gourmet market named after its founder.

After a brief illness, Howard passed away on July 5. I found out the next day when I walked into the market and saw the looks on the employees’ faces. One look and I knew something was very wrong. In a short period of time, I saw quite a few people weeping — both employees and patrons.

On the TV monitor over the register a tribute was playing to the owner in a loop. I offered my condolences to some of the long-time employees, paid and left. As I walked to my car, I started to tear up, too. Now I’m not a particularly weepy person, so I found it odd that I started to cry.

But this man, and the business he’d built, had been a part of my daily life for a long time. The store would hold classic car shows, July 4th fireworks and more in its parking lot. When there was a hurricane, Howards stayed open to keep the community going.

I can’t tell you how many parties, BBQs, dinners, etc. my wife and I have enjoyed courtesy of the foods Howards provided.

And almost every day for 16 years, there was Howard by the front register talking to customers and building relationships with all who entered. He knew my family by name. Even gave my son, who was seven-years-old at the time, a job application to fill out (we had fun with that!)

So Why Am I Telling You This?
Think about your company: Do you know your customers by name, or are you just a nameless, faceless entity that people buy product from? How about your staff. Are they, especially your customer service reps (CSRs), connected to your customers? Via how many touchpoints?

There’s a lot to be learned from your old-school retailer. I wonder on a daily basis how to translate that to my business and clients. From trial and error, I’ve learned and hopefully taught the companies I’ve worked for how to build relationships with their clients. It used to be that people only bought “stuff” from retailers. I tell companies, “People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.”

How Does That Translate in the E-Commerce Age?
Simple! Make sure all of your customer touchpoints “keep it real.” Have your CSRs build relationships with your customers. Send them a surprise email special. Connect via your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. (Still don’t have these up and running? What are you waiting for?) Push your employees to the forefront. Do stories, biographies and contests revolving around them. Learn to use your website and social media efforts to project a real and personal voice. Respond immediately to complaints, issues, etc.

I could go on here, but you get the picture. Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us how you connect and engage with your customers. Go for it!

And Howard … RIP! You’ll be missed!

Attention Marketers: Watch this episode of Undercover Boss now


This Sunday’s episode of Undercover Boss, focused on GSI Commerce and it’s CEO Michael Rubin.  It’s all about direct marketing, customer service, call center training and shipping and fulfillment.  Lots of great nuggets of info to learn from here.

Watch the episode for free click here

Customer service now!!! The convergence of customer service and social media (and a moral)


In my last column, I cautioned readers about social media and the negative effect it can have on online reputation management. Here’s a quick recap: The key to a positive reputation is to look at every possible customer and prospect touchpoint and make sure it’s buttoned up tight. Every interaction, every touchpoint needs to be quality-driven, otherwise your brand is going to take a social media beating.

There’s just too much prime opportunity online — e.g.,  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. — for brands to get dinged when they screw up. In the few weeks I’ve been back from vacation, I’ve been thinking about this as I go about my day-to-day dealings with companies.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve gotten dinged: once by a salesman and once by a so-called customer service rep (CSR). But helping to restore my faith in our industry, I also recently had a fantastic customer service experience as well.

But first the negative:

  • I have a TV that for the last year has had sound problems. The sound intermittently stops working. With the TV under warranty, I called CompUSA’s warranty company to remedy the problem. It sent someone out who couldn’t find the problem. After another unsuccessful attempt to fix the problem, I again called the warranty company to get a new TV. The CSR told me there was nothing she could do except send out a third company to look at my TV. I calmly explained to her the facts of the case. She calmly explained that there’s nothing she can do. So I asked for her supervisor. The supervisor gave me the same speech — same language, same dull, disinterested, flat demeanor. Like robots, only less interesting. By then I realized that the company is just going to run out the clock on the warranty instead of giving me a new TV. The moral of this story: Some companies teach their frontline people to hold the line, not help customers.
  • I recently paid a visit to my local Honda dealership to trade in my son’s car. This will be my third lease with this dealership. The salesman I normally use is busy, so he puts me in the capable hands of “Bill.” I tell Bill that I want the special that was advertised on the dealership’s website because it’s the lowest-priced car it sells. Let the games begin. I know how it works, but I never let car salespeople play. Bill makes three attempts to get me into a more expensive car by asking if I want this or want that on the car. I remind him for the third time that I only want the least expensive car the dealership sells of that model. You know, the one listed on its website. Bill responds to me with the following: “You want the lowest price in that model, OK, but don’t you want a car with air conditioning?” (F.Y.I., I live in Florida.) He says this with actual contempt. One minute later, he’s back waiting for another customer to annoy. The moral of this story: I’d have fired this salesman on the spot if it was my dealership. You cannot risk offending any customers, much less repeat customers.

And the positive:

  • One word: Apple! I had to call its customer service department multiple times in the last few weeks with questions before installing its latest operating system. Each time I was greeted by a helpful human who worked with me patiently in a relaxed manner to get my issue resolved. Apple even offered to send me (for free, no less) operating system disks. (Mine were lost, hence the call.) I swear, it was like talking to the Apple guy from the TV commercials. Great job, Apple! You “get” customer service.

I don’t know about you, but every time I have to call a company’s customer service department I get a bit nervous in advance. Most of the time I know I’m going to be treated poorly by poorly trained, poorly managed people who are totally indifferent to me and my plight.

This message is for all of the C-suite people who read my column: Go to your call center now! Listen to your CSRs’ interactions; then do something about them. People are talking about you whether you like it or not. Positive or negative — it’s your choice.

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