Thursday, April 12, 2012

What appears at the end of TV ads?

Have you noticed that something has changed in television advertising? Many of the same products and services appear as before, but the commercials end differently and we have Mark Zuckerberg to thank.

These days, many TV commercials end with a final call to action to visit a company’s or brand’s Facebook page. While watching television this past week, I saw commercials promote the following companies and/or products, and all ended with a final screen featuring either their customized Facebook URL or the message, “Follow Us on Facebook” with Facebook’s logo: Carl’s Jr., Burlington Coat Factory, Living Spaces, ToysRUs, BirdsEye, PetSmart, Snuggle, Nutrigrain, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, Cats Pride Fresh & Light Litter, and Suburu. In addition, news stations are also adding a small Facebook logo along the bottom of their screens – a local station in Los Angeles recently offered free iPads to lucky viewers who “liked” their page on Facebook, and one lucky viewer won a brand new Mercedes-Benz worth more than $100,000.

But here’s the problem: Do we all want to promote Facebook and the Facebook community?
  • While there are 750-plus million users on Facebook, not all 750-plus million are either fans of a particular (translation, your) brand page or willing to post and interact. Many people in the social media and marketing arena ask, how often does a fan visit your page after the initial “like?” Even more importantly, how many fans actually comment on your page?
  • Facebook’s team has designed its page format and capabilities per its designers’ creativity, and as a result, you don’t have complete control of your page. Changes are at the whim of the Facebook team – just think back to Facebook’s requirement for upgrading to the Timeline format.
  • During Facebook’s growth, other social sites have joined the party. There was Quora, then Google Plus, and the current buzz centers around Pinterest. There is no doubt that other sites will emerge, so the question is, will your business promote these new pages when they become the talk of the town instead of your main site?
  • Due to the progression of social media, a Facebook page has become a necessary part of an overall social media marketing plan, but it should not replace a company’s main website. Your main website reflects your company’s mission, brand, color palette – and you completely control it, no one else does.
  • And what happens after Facebook’s IPO? Think of all the free publicity that Facebook will continue to receive – how many other new publicly-traded companies get so much free publicity?

So WHY do you think companies are promoting their Facebook pages instead of their main sites – and what makes Facebook so much more appealing? Please chime in.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Tale of Marketing and Customer Service

Is there a connection between marketing and customer service? Should there be a connection? As a marketing and branding professional, my answer is an emphatic “yes.” But sometimes, I wonder how many businesses understand this connection.

Recently, I had an experience that, sadly, probably wasn’t too unique. All of the interactions lacked attention to customer service. If I had never heard that “the customer is always right” or “service with a smile” or knew that some companies pride themselves on their emphasis on providing excellent customer service (Zappos, Starbucks, Disney, etc.), I wouldn’t be so upset. But in today’s challenging economy, service is the one characteristic that sets a business apart from the competition.

Here’s what happened. I have a 10-year-old SUV that although it looks almost new, it lives outside instead of in the garage. As a result, its enemies include the weather, gardeners, and dirt. So, I use a cover, and it was time to get a new one.

Thanks to Google, I found four dealers within 25 miles of my home. I visited all four dealers websites and sent emails to each dealer’s parts department. I provided my vehicle’s model and year, and asked if each had the appropriate cover, and if not, where I might be able to order one. Since the vehicle is 10 years old, it is important to note that newer models are a different size (both length and width).

Here were the responses I received:

[1] One dealer sent an email indicating that it could not order the car cover since my vehicle was too old – but recommended that I check retail stores, such as, Pep Boys or Auto Zone. (Note, I checked several retail stores first before reaching out to the dealers and all suggested that I contact the manufacturer because they did not carry customized car covers - they only sold one-size-fits all covers, and they do not fit all vehicles.)

[2] The second dealer sent an email and asked me to call the parts department but did not provide the phone number.

[3] A third dealer sent an email thanking me for my inquiry and offered to assist me with buying a new vehicle – but totally ignored my request about the car cover. Here is a portion of the email that I received: “I would surely enjoy the opportunity to assist you in your vehicle selection and purchasing needs because we have the most extensive inventory of new and pre-owned vehicles of any dealer in Southern California.”

[4] The fourth dealer sent an email saying that my request would be forwarded to the right person and that I would receive a response shortly – but after a week, I had not received another email.

While it seems as if I were searching for the equivalent of a needle in a haystack, let’s consider the marketing opportunity. Had I been the employee who received the email request, I would have followed up with the manufacturer to determine the best option for obtaining the cover. If the manufacturer did not have the cover, I would have done some online research to find the cover that would fit the exact specifications of the customer’s vehicle. If I did not have the authority to authorize a purchase, I would have found the proper employee who had the authority. I would then have determined the price – either with a small percentage for the dealership or not – and let the customer know. If the customer agreed to the purchase, I would have taken care of purchasing it and then determined whether to deliver it to the dealership or the customer’s home.

Unfortunately, none of these dealerships offered any form of customer service, and as a result, they lost a customer. Think how happy I would have been to receive an email or phone call alerting me that a cover had been found. Since I definitely wanted to make a purchase and stated that fact up front, the dealer that located a cover would have won a customer for life. In addition, I would have been effusive with my word-of-mouth promotion for the successful dealer. Alas, no one stepped up – instead, my request was thrown aside as either unimportant or a waste of time.

Apparently, no one at any of these large and well-known dealers ever heard the saying from Ray Hiltz, “Customers are not an interruption to our work, they are the purpose of our work.”

What would you have done if you had received my email request?
Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his comic with this post. Check out his work at

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Currency in the Digital Age: Users Not Customers

Today, businesses interact differently than they did in the pre-Internet era. No longer can they exist without an interactive website, social media presence, and if not now, possibly by the time you finish reading this post, mobile-enhanced sites and branded apps.

In the words of Aaron Shapiro, CEO of Huge, “The Internet will drive the majority of all consumer purchases…a figure that will only grow as young people who have never lived without the Internet increase their spending power. The result: there’s no longer such a thing as an offline business – every company must have an effective digital strategy to survive.”

In Shapiro’s book, Users Not Customers, this has resulted in a new business model, one in which companies focus on users first and foremost. Users are defined as employees, job candidates, business prospects and partners, brand fans, members of the media, and other influencers who interact with a business through digital media and technology. The hope is that by implementing a user-first strategy and creating a positive user experience, Users are then the engine for growing a customer base.

As a business evolves from the traditional model of interacting solely with customers to the larger universe of users, there can be a concern. According to Shapiro, “A culture of greatness includes one subtle component that is often missed in the world of innovation, and that’s delivery. Our goal is not to create the Mona Lisa, the perfect work of art that will stand the test of time. It’s to create the best user-first experience on time and with the resources available.”

Can your business adopt this new business model? Can all employees understand the importance of digital currency? And how can your leaders help employees to pay better attention to all audiences that fall under the umbrella known as users? 

Bottom line, how can your business focus on users rather than customers to stay one step ahead of the competition?

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