The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing – Presentation from #DMA2011


On October 5th I presented The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing to a packed house at the Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference and Exhibition.  Here is the deck from that presentation.  I have some video and pictures I will clean up and post next.  Feel free to pass this presentation on.

Follow up: A tale of two CompUSA’s, extended warranties and the great social media bully pulpit


Two weeks ago in my blog (article here), I totally skewered CompUSA and their warranty company (found out it’s Assurant Solutions) for not doing the right thing and honoring the extended warranty I purchased for an HDTV.

Within days of publishing that article, pushing it out to my Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter connections and posting it in the Linkedin Groups I belong to, I got a call from CompUSA.

Since I was driving in the car at the time, I never did get the person’s name, so lets call him Good Corporate Samaritan, or Sam for short.  Essentially Sam wanted me to know two things:

First that the CompUSA I purchased my TV and my extended warranty from was not in business anymore and that the NEW CompUSA had nothing to do with the old one.

Secondly, he wanted me to know that he had made arrangements with their (the old CompUSA) warranty company for me to get a replacement TV.

Sam assured me that the new CompUSA would never treat a valued customer so shabbily.  In that conversation, I told Sam that I believed heavily in the power of social media as the great equalizer that can right many wrongs that bad companies perpetrate on their clients.

I also told Sam that once I received my replacement TV, I would write a follow up and let people know that I had my CompUSA’s wrong.  So for Sam and all of the employees at CompUSA, I just wanted to let you know that I did indeed receive a replacement TV on Thursday, and that the NEW CompUSA came to the rescue.

Thanks Sam!  Much appreciated!

That said, I am a very lucky guy in that I have a bully pulpit with a decent sized following to preach to.  (and thanks to all for listening by the way!!!)

Yet I have to wonder if Joe Everyman, would be as successful at getting justice from CompUSA or for that matter any company without said bully pulpit as a platform.  I guess it depends on the company really, and how customer-centric they actually are.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to further explore what it means for a company to be truly customer centric.  I have a few great case studies for you.

Before I go today let me leave you with my favorite quote and essential operating concept that drives my business practices.  The quote is from Peter Drucker and is brilliant in its elegant simplicity…

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose – to create a customer.

Companies are not in business to make things… but to make customers.”

I hope I am preaching to the choir here!  What are your thoughts?

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.

How These Call Center Training Techniques Can Increase Your Call-Center Conversions


As direct marketers, we spend a great deal of time and money developing programs to make the phone ring. But it’s the call-center agents that truly make the cash register sing.

Therefore, I spend a great deal of time training customer service reps (CSRs) to be powerful brand advocates with the ability to make a difference with all customers. Personally, I hate calling a company and hearing some disinterested rep deal with my order in a lackluster way. It tells me the company I’m dealing with doesn’t get that the people manning the phones are the voice of the company.

A simple CSR training program can solve the lackluster attitude and increase conversion.

CSR’s should be trained to think on their feet rather than interacting with customers and prospects by reading a script. Of course, good call-center software with a scripted environment can be beneficial, but even the best scripting can’t beat a well-trained CSR’s instincts. It’s important to hire reps that can work this way, and then mentor and monitor them on an ongoing basis. A word of caution: Analyze call times to ensure your reps aren’t burning up phone time with the personal touch.

CSR training programs are quite simple. You don’t need elaborate monitoring equipment. Simply use a cassette recorder and some basic monitoring equipment you can buy at Radio Shack to record CSRs’ calls for a day, then listen to the tapes. Break the reps into teams of three or four and sit in a room together and listen to the day’s calls. Teach the reps to listen actively and objectively to the calls.

Let them coach each other on the cues and buying signals that sometimes get missed in real time. If you spot a missed buying signal, stop the tape — I encourage all of the reps in the group to stop the tape if they hear something — and role-play how the rep could’ve made a difference in converting the call.

Set up contests during the training process for the individual CSR and training team that generates the highest conversion rates. Drill the reps on making sure to be gentle and not pushy, as it’s human nature to get more aggressive to win a contest. Stress the quality of the relationship with the customer as well as the quantity of the order.

Using this simple technique at one company I worked with, we increased conversion rates by as much as 20 percent. Also, by fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and healthy competition, we increased the enthusiasm and morale in its call center as well.

Train CSRs to seek out opportunities to cross-sell effectively. Let your reps know which items complement each other, and coach them on the art of cross-selling. Truth is, sometimes all it takes is a suggestion, something like, “Do you know, Ms. Jones, that we have a beautiful top that complements the shorts you’re purchasing today?”

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!

Use these tips to connect the dots of your customer touchpoints, Part 1


Direct and multichannel marketers encounter moments of truth that make or break their sales and marketing effectiveness multiple times each day. How they interact with customers, prospects — essentially all consumers — is critical to their success.

Direct marketers touch consumers in both traditional (call center, website) and nontraditional ways (mobile, social media). Reputation management is everywhere.

Marketing in the 21st century, with the internet and social media in play, has become even more of a challenge as direct and multichannel aren’t fully in control of all of the messaging that’s communicated to (and between) consumers regarding their brands. This is why today’s brands need to make sure that all client-facing activities are buttoned up, in sync and consistent across all channels.

Well, at least that’s the goal to shoot for!

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a multipart series on how to maximize results in all selling channels and at all consumer touchpoints — from your call center to your website to your Facebook page.

But before I get started, I want to offer you a challenge. I have some questions for you to ask yourself. I want you to become a detective in your own organization. And I don’t care if you’re the CEO or a customer service representative in a call center. Try the following:

  1. List all of the points of contact your customers and prospects interact with you in. The more specific, the better. For example, if you use landing pages for marketing campaigns, list them.
  2. Get out of your office. Go to your call center and listen to multiple customer service and sales-oriented calls. Do searches on your company name and/or products to see what your reputation is in the social mediasphere.
  3. Do a complete audit of all of the places your brand touches consumers. Note the good and the bad.
  4. Get others in your organization involved. My best suggestion to you is to get your CEO to put together a customer experience team to investigate the above. It should meet weekly to discuss its findings. Then build a plan to ensure your touchpoints are doing exactly what you want them to do — i.e., driving sales and engagement.

Stay tuned for part two of this series in a few days. But in the meantime, go ahead and post your comments, suggestions and even fact findings below

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

6 key takeaways for getting a handle on this new-fangled social media customer service


A few weeks ago, I downloaded a Monopoly game from a company called GameHouse. My son was itching to play the computer version with us on our family night (mostly because I move too slow).

Downloading was a success, but I had problems finding the activation code for the software, so I went in search of a company contact.

I jumped on GameHouse’s website, and my first instinct was to look for a phone number to call its customer service department. If you read part 1 of my “You Lost Me There” series a few months back, you know that I’m an adamant believer in having your contact info prominently displayed on your website. Another one of my pet peeves is the ubiquitous page with the contact form. Or, more importantly, how long it takes to get a response from said form.

To me it’s simple: Make it easy to speak with me or my business goes elsewhere. I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to contact GameHouse, and I grew frustrated. But there was a big (really big) “Follow us on Twitter” button, so I clicked it. I sent a tweet to GameHouse — and the rest of its followers — on how I was having problems and was aggravated that its website had no contact info. For good measure, I joined its Facebook fan page and sent the same message.

It didn’t take GameHouse long to respond. Thanks to Kristy, who manages GameHouse’s Twitter presence, I had an easy way to establish communication with the company and resolve my issues. Turns out that I also ordered half a dozen copies of Monopoly as I tried to get the activation code. Kristy helped me get squared away with GameHouse’s billing department, too. It took about a week of back and forth to get all the additional orders credited to my account. Kristy had one of GameHouse’s customer service reps work closely with me throughout the process.

Then — and this one blows me away — about a week later I got a package from GameHouse with a different version of Monopoly inside. Also inside was a handwritten card thanking me “for my patience” signed by Kristy with the note: “A little gift for all your troubles.” My son loves it, and everywhere I go (including a lecture I did last week) I tell of my exceptional customer service experience with GameHouse. With this in mind, I offer up some useful pointers.

6 Customer Service Takeaways

  1. I sent my “You Lost Me There” article to Kristy, who said she’d pass it up the food chain. I hope GameHouse heeds my advice and makes it easier for customers to be served by adding a prominent phone number to its website. I’m not sure everybody will use Twitter like I did, however, meaning the potential for a negative customer service experience is present.
  2. I was also quite surprised by how seamless the customer service experience can be without “traditional” contact methods being in play. As a “stone age” customer, once I adapted I was happy again.
  3. Serve your customers in all channels. Social media is having a dramatic impact as a customer service tool; customers will self-select the channel of their choice.
  4. Exceptional customer service can (and should) be the rule in all channels — online and offline.
  5. If your customer service isn’t exceptional, expect to see negative reviews expressed publicly. Also expect to see bad customer service stories spread virally. Had I not been totally satisfied by the work of Kristy and her team, this column would have read very differently.
  6. Upset customers can easily be turned into advocates with proper service. Today’s angry customer is tomorrow’s best customer.
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