Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Customers Are Changing, But Is Your Marketing Keeping Up?


Today’s customers are smarter than ever before. “Empowered with mobile devices and social media, customers are reshaping the dynamics in both B2C and B2B environments.” As a result, marketers and brand strategists must understand all available data to drive engagement and sales across all touch points.

Does your business need help in navigating the turbulent marketing landscape? How well does your business know its core audiences? How well does your business know your extended audiences in the race to attract new customers? How well does your business understand its marketing analytics?

Don’t get left behind. Understand today’s smart customers by answering these questions:
 

[1] How many customers use social media to engage with your brand on a regular basis?
 

[2] Do your have a social media plan to engage with customers in real time?
 

[3] Does your brand have a mobile-accessible website?
 

[4] If you offer e-commerce, are e-commerce options easily transferable to the mobile environment?
 

[5] Do you have a crisis communication plan when and if something negative is written or spoken about your brand on Facebook, Twitter, or another social site?
 

[6] What are your customer service capabilities? Do you offer online chat? Do you offer 24/7 service? What are your alternatives if your customer service options go down?

In addition to intelligence, today’s customers have high expectations. They demand customized experiences and quality service. They also demand the same level of service across all interactions: website, emails, text messages, in-store and face-to-face interactions, advertisements, social media, call center, direct mail, display and paid search ads, and post-sales service and support. According to IBM’s State of Marketing Survey from 2012, only 29% of marketers believe that they are effective at integrating channels, which means that your business can become an industry leader if you create a compelling message and carry it out across all channels.

If your business designs a complete customer journey and coordinates marketing efforts across all communication channels, you will have the opportunity to lead your industry and set the standard. Your brand can become the one everyone talks about. Don't you want that?


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To read the entire white paper used as the basis for this post, “Marketing: Connecting with the Chief Executive Customer,” here’s the link: http://www.rethinkyourcustomer.com/form/MKT-EBK

Image Credit: suphakit73 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Instagram as a Branding Tool


All of the social media sites have fans, but when it comes to business opportunities, which is the best fit? While some industries are natural fits for some sites, others are less clear. For example, real estate agents can use YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter to capture property features and quickly publicize them. Restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality venues can use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to showcase their locations and also offer real-time discounts and offers. But if you sell something a little less mainstream or provide services, how can you actually show prospects and customers? Your solution may be Instagram.

A study by Simply Measured in October revealed that “Instagram’s growth has been so substantial that it now rivals Google+ and Pinterest in terms of brand adoption.” According to the study, 71% of the most recognized international brands are now active on Instagram, up from 40% last year. Photos receive more comments than videos, and hashtags are the norm. 83% of posts include at least one hashtag, but many include several. And most users add a filter of some sort to customize their photos.

According to Instagram’s website: “Capture and Share the World's Moments. Instagram is a fast, beautiful, and fun way to share your life with friends and family. Take a picture or video, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram – it's that easy. You can even share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more. It's a new way to see the world. Oh yeah, did we mention it’s free?” Initially available for the iPhone and Android smartphone audiences, Instagram.com can also be accessed on desktops and tablets for a viewing experience.

But Instagram is much more than an app to share photos with friends and family. It offers a way for brands to communicate with their fans and customers through visual communication, whether photographs, word art, or anything else imaginable. Some brands showcase company employees in action at tradeshows and other events. Some brands showcase brand appearances in ads and historical events. Some brands create contests to engage their followers and request photos with specific hashtags. Some brands introduce and feature new products.

Here are 10 examples of successful Instagram pages and why they attract followers:
[1] Sherwin Williams (sherwinwilliams) – 150 posts showcase color in very clever ways
[2] Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii (turtlebayresort) – 490 posts of hotel and local area
[3] San Diego Zoo (sandiegozoo) – 425 posts of residents
[4] Guide Dogs for the Blind (dgb_official) – 40 posts tell the story of this unique non-profit
[5] American Heart Association (american_heart) – 199 posts promote this non-profit’s events
[6] Crumbs Bake Shop (crumbsbakeshop) – 167 posts of edible delights
[7] Snowboarder Magazine (snowboardermag) – 1799 posts of snow and athletes in the snow
[8] Tiffany and Company (tiffanyandco) – 525 posts of sparkling products
[9] Jet Blue (jetblue) – 108 posts of how the company supports the community (for example, NY Fire Department logo on an airplane), invites contributions from users, and creates contests for its fans and flyers
[10] Oreo (oreo) – 294 posts of fun and yummy ways to eat this timeless treat

In order to build a brand presence on Instagram, consider these questions first:
[1] How will images improve the dialogue between my customers and my brand?
[2] Do my customers need to be tech-savvy and photo-savvy to participate on Instagram?
[3] Are there specific types of images that would fit for a brand presence on Instagram?
[4] Are there staff resources to respond in real time to Instagram posts that reference my brand?
[5] Would an Instagram presence align with my brand’s presence on other social media sites?

There is also a sub-culture of apps that enrich the Instagram experience, and here are just a few. Instaquote allows users to add text to a selection of backgrounds to create memorable word art images. Photorepost allows users to share other users’ posts by adding the original poster’s name in the image. GuessWhere allows users to guess the location of featured posts.

I invite you to check out my page on Instagram at http://instagram.com/debbielaskeymba.

So try adding Instagram to your marketing mix – you may receive attention from people who aren’t active on many of the other social sites. And you may get new customers in the process!

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If you’d like to learn how Flipboard, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn can help build your brands, check out the posts I wrote on my Blog and elsewhere for useful tips.

Flipboard as a Branding Tool
http://debbielaskey.blogspot.com/2013/10/flipboard-as-branding-tool.html

How to Build Your Brand on Twitter
http://debbielaskey.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-to-build-your-brand-on-twitter.html

Twitter Can Be a Marketer’s Best Friend
http://www.duetsblog.com/2013/04/articles/branding/twitter-can-be-a-brand-marketers-best-friend/

Five Things You Can Learn From Facebook
http://www.duetsblog.com/2012/05/articles/branding/5-things-you-can-learn-from-facebook-about-brand-building/

A Facebook Brand Presence Is Important
http://debbielaskey.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-facebook-brand-presence-is-important.html

How to Build a Brand with Pinterest
http://debbielaskey.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-build-brand-with-pinterest.html

Lead by Example with LinkedIn
http://newparadigmsllc.com/wordpress/2013/11/lead-by-example-with-linkedin.html

Image Credit: Instagram.





 

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top 10 Marketing Terms for 2014


While marketing may be a single bullet in your regular leadership team meeting agenda, how much time does your team actually apply to marketing your products or services? With all the buzz surrounding social media, traditional marketing has taken a back seat, and that’s a shame.

All types of business – whether B2B, B2C, or non-profit – need to understand all elements that fall within the marketing pie, and one important piece of the marketing pie is the lingo or terms that create their own buzz each year.

Here are my top 10 marketing terms and definitions to assist your business as 2014 dawns.

BEHAVIORAL TARGETING (also Audience Targeting):

With more social networking sites in the news as a result of their privacy policies and questions as to how they access and use customer data, behavioral targeting is a hot topic. Websites capture data generated by website and landing page visitors and determine the effectiveness of their campaigns. Ads can also be created based on this data.

BRAND PERSONALITY:
With so many brands in the marketplace and so much noise as a result of social media, now marketers treat brands as if they had personality traits. When brands are given human personality traits, such as, creative, friendly, happy, etc., brands quickly stand apart from the crowd.

CONTENT MARKETING:
Content marketing is any content (blogs, white papers, eBooks, Infographics, case studies, guides, etc.) that has been created to provide value to customers and prospects on a regular basis. The goal of content marketing is communicating as opposed to selling.

DIGITAL MARKETING:
Digital marketing makes use of electronic devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, cellphones, digital billboards, and game consoles to engage with consumers.

ENGAGEMENT:
Engagement marketing is also called "participation marketing." This is because it strives to connect a consumer with a brand with the objective of creating a long-term connection. Once consumers are engaged with a brand, the hope is that they are no longer passive receivers of messages, but instead, they are brand advocates or ambassadors who share a brand’s strengths with others with positive word-of-mouth marketing.

LOYALTY MARKETING:
Loyalty marketing is when a business focuses on growing and retaining existing customers as a result of incentives. These incentives can be discounts, coupons, free products that correspond to purchased products, etc. Imagine that you purchased a specific brand of car or truck. An example of loyalty marketing would be a postcard via the US mail or an email offering a special price due to your previous purchase and an invitation to return to the same dealer for a unique test-drive experience.

PULL DIGITAL MARKETING:
Consumers do not actively seek marketing content. Websites, blogs, and streaming media (audio and video) are examples. In each of these, users have to navigate to specific websites to view content.

PUSH DIGITAL MARKETING:
The marketer sends a message without the consent of a recipient – for example, display advertising on websites and blogs. Email, text messaging, and web feeds can also be classified as push digital marketing when the recipient has not given permission to receive the message.

SHARE OF MIND:
As a result of social media, share of mind has limitless opportunities. This is because share of mind measures how often consumers think about a specific brand as a percentage of all the times they think about all the brands in the same category.

KPMs or KEY PERFORMANCE METRICS (also Key Performance Indicators or KPIs):

While also a member of last year’s list, this term is so important that it should be on the mind of every business person every day. All marketing campaigns must be evaluated to determine the return on investment. How many click-thru’s to your main website or campaign-specific landing pages resulted from emails? How many leads came as a result of tradeshow attendance or telemarketing? How many likes appeared on your Facebook page? How many mentions and retweets appeared on Twitter? How many of your videos were uploaded on YouTube? How many sales resulted from your social media activities?

What’s your favorite term to start the New Year?

_____________  

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
 

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Brand Known As #GivingTuesday


First, there was a phenomenon known as Black Friday, a day when retailers saw an increase in sales following Thanksgiving. Then, thanks to the Internet, Cyber Monday became the online equivalent. And now, there's a third day to kick off the holiday season. #GivingTuesday is a nationwide event to raise awareness for philanthropy, and this year, it takes place on December 3rd.

"New York’s 92nd Street Y was the catalyst and incubator for #GivingTuesday, bringing the expertise of 139 years of community-management to the project and providing #GivingTuesday a home. The United Nations Foundation joined as partners, bringing their strategic and communications clout to the project. Over 2,500 charities, volunteer organizations, corporations, and foundations came together in all 50 US states with one common purpose: to help others and incentivize ways to give more, give smarter, and celebrate the American spirit of contribution. Individuals were encouraged to be generous in whatever ways mattered to them, whether that meant volunteering at a local charity or by donating to a favorite cause."

Blackbaud processed over $10 million in online donations on November 27, 2012 – a 53% increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the previous year. DonorPerfect recorded a 46% increase in online donations and the average gift increased 25%. More than 50 million people worldwide spread the word about #GivingTuesday – resulting in milestone trending on Twitter.

"GivingTuesday is a counter narrative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it reminds us that the spirit of the holiday season should be about community and not just consumerism," said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. "The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends, and neighbors is the commitment to work together to help build a better world."

In the words of Bill and Melinda Gates, "Whoever you support, and however much you give, thank you for participating in #GivingTuesday. It’s a great way to help create the better world we all want. We wish you a happy holiday season."

For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website, Facebook page, or Twitter page. Also, don't forget to use the #GivingTuesday hashtag on all your social networks.

Image Credit: #GivingTuesday

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Improve Your Brand: Take the IBM Workforce and Customer Experience Assessment


As a result of social media, technology, marketing, and customer service functions within many businesses are getting hard to differentiate. So how can a brand stand out from the competition when threatened by social interference, multiple devices, and internal business strife?

One solution might be for your business to take the “Workforce and Customer Experience Assessment” created by IBM, an online tool designed to benchmark your workforce and customer experience practices. 


“A social business excels at creating highly engaging and personalized connections between people, information, and process. The result is smarter workforces and exceptional customer experiences…Do you know how to leverage your people, information and social insights for competitive advantage?”

A variety of questions address candidate experience, employee experience, manager experience, customer experience, and the workforce – but these were my favorites:

[1] Does your organization use social media sites to recruit talent?
[2] Do you effectively evaluate candidates that closely align with your culture and job requirements?
[3] What elements are included in your onboarding process?
[4] What types of training and skills development programs are used in your organization?
[5] Do you have an effective way for employees to collaborate and share knowledge across teams regardless of location and via any device?
[6] What types of performance management practices are used in your organization?
[7] Do managers know how to motivate and engage their teams and workforce?
[8] How does your organization measure leadership performance?
[9] Can your organization align and measure talent strategies against key business metrics?
[10] What are the top three business priorities driving your organization’s customer engagement strategy?
[11] What tactics is your organization using to improve online customer engagement?
[12] Is your organization measuring the success of your online customer engagement tactics?
[13] Does your organization connect customer insights with product and service development?
[14] How does your organization provide support for customers using mobile devices?
[15] Does your organization understand the value of technology and how to weave it into your daily business operations?

After you answer all of the questions, a score will be provided. Your score will provide a breakdown as to which areas need improvement.

“When companies reduce time-to-hire, increase productivity, lower turnover and increase retention rates, business wins by getting its products to market faster, sharing collective knowledge, and being more creative and innovative. These companies truly understand how employees impact the bottom line. It’s not just good business. It’s smart business. Because what is good for people is good for business, and together, they can change the world.”

So, don’t you want your business to be a smart business?

If yes, click below to take the IBM Workforce and Customer Experience Assessment:
http://ibmtvdemo.edgesuite.net/software/collaboration/workforce-and-custexp-assessment 


Image Credit: KROMKRATHOG via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Does Your Brand Need A Tagline?


These days, every brand needs to stand out in order to attract customers and also keep customers. So how does your brand do it? Do you bake amazing chocolate cakes? Do you manufacturer ergonomic chairs? Do you provide insurance for classic automobiles? Whatever your business does, one way to differentiate yourself from the competition is with a unique tagline. But since not every business has one, how do you know if your brand needs one?
 

Everyone can recognize the brands behind these famous taglines: Just Do It, A Diamond Is Forever, and Think Different. But Nike, DeBeers, and Apple would have been just as successful without those taglines – or would they?

According to Wikipedia, “A tagline is a small amount of text which serves to clarify a thought for, or designed with a form of, dramatic effect. Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with an individual, social group, or product. As a variant of a branding slogan, taglines can be used in marketing materials and advertising. The idea behind the concept is to create a memorable dramatic phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of an audio/visual product or to reinforce and strengthen the audience’s memory of a literary product. Some taglines are successful enough to warrant inclusion in popular culture.” (1)

However, taglines are also referred to as slogans. According to Wikipedia, “Advertising slogans are short, memorable group of words used in advertising campaigns. Some slogans are created just for specific limited-time campaigns; others are intended as a corporate slogan, to be used for extended periods. Various slogans start out as the former, and are, over time, converted into the latter as ideas take hold with the public. Some advertising slogans are memorable after general use is discontinued.” (2)

Can you identify these taglines or slogans?

  • We’re Number Two. We Try Harder = Avis
  • The Ultimate Driving Machine = BMW
  • Expect More. Pay Less. = Target
  • Breakfast of Champions = Wheaties
  • Bags Fly Free. = Southwest Airlines
  • What’s in your wallet? = Capital One

So what should your company consider when the “do we need a tagline” discussion arises? And make no mistake, one of these days, a member of your senior leadership team – and 99% of the time, it won’t be the head of marketing – will enter a conference room for a team meeting and say, “I think we need a tagline.”

If your team can answer these five questions, then you may be ready for a tagline:
[1] Would a tagline clarify the brand’s competitive strength or strengths?
[2] Would a tagline speak to the target audience?
[3] Would a tagline get lost in the visual representation of your brand (the logo)?
[4] Would a tagline reflect the personality of your brand?
[5] Would a tagline be easily associated with your brand (memorable)?

Remember, the key for a successful tagline is to integrate it into all aspects of your marketing strategy from online marketing to in-store displays, from email marketing to advertising, from public relations to social media, etc. The tagline has to become an appendage to your brand story.

And lastly, to quote Benjamin Franklin,
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about. If you have an amazing tagline, it will accomplish both.

Whats your favorite tagline? To see some of my favorites, check out my Pinterest Board:
http://www.pinterest.com/debbielaskeymba/taglines-that-live-forever
_____________________ 


Sources for this post:
(1) Wikipedia: Tagline
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagline

(2) Wikipedia: Advertising Slogan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising_slogan

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Blurring Lines Between Marketing and Technology

No matter the size, every business is experiencing it. The lines between marketing functions and information technology (IT) functions are blurring more and more every day. Who owns the database? Who owns the website? Who owns the social media accounts? Who owns the documents housed in the cloud? The debate ranges on, and in the process, the tension continues to grow.

Some businesses have created new roles and titles. Some have added a “Marketing Technologist,” while others have added a “Chief Digital Officer.” Some have gone so far as to merge the marketing and IT departments into one. But that’s like adding dentists to a football team – it doesn’t really make sense.

Let’s break it down. On the tech side of the aisle, there are five key specialty areas: system administration/network infrastructure, database designers, website coders, information security, and legal compliance and data/business recovery. On the marketing side of the aisle, the list is even longer: advertising, branding/brand advocacy/brand promise, corporate identity (logo/tagline/brand personality/brand voice/templates/logo guidelines), co-branding, re-branding, strategic planning, corporate communications (brochures/newsletters/branded collateral), public relations, internal employee communications, social media, mobile marketing, copywriting/blogging, tradeshows/seminars/webinars/special events, corporate sponsorship/non-profit community support, metrics/ROI/KPIs/NPS/survey analysis, market/customer behavior research, customer experience/VOC marketing, website marketing, graphic design for print/web/ads, and annual marketing plans/budgets.

At the core, the tension between the IT and marketing departments has grown because the two own important data. Often, that data surrounds a business database. Whether that database was designed internally (and this is where the IT folks come in because they probably coded it) or externally (translation, often with SalesForce or a similar CRM product), the IT team wants to provide maintenance and updates. The marketing team wants to use the data to reach out to customers and prospects to provide service, launch marketing campaigns, and upsell.

Instead of crowding out the other, why can’t the two departments align their objectives? I asked 10 tech and marketing experts to address this topic, and their comments follow below with their Twitter handles.

John Ellett (@jellett): Technology has fundamentally changed the way companies engage with their current and potential customers across paid, owned, and earned media channels. The question shouldn’t be whether Marketing or IT will be in charge of planning and implementing the systems needed. It should be, how do the two divisions learn to be collaborative partners and leverage the strengths of each. Unfortunately, egos, budgetary turf wars, and lack of common language are inhibiting the teamwork needed to make progress at the necessary rate.

Shaun Dakin (@PrivacyCamp): With the increased use of technology in marketing programs, both online and offline, it’s clear that marketing talent must understand code and data just as well as they understand marketing strategy and planning. The future of marketing combines a strong sense of who the customers are, where to find them, what to offer them, and the technologies needed to delight them.

Susan Gunelius (@SusanGunelius): With technology as the foundation of most marketing initiatives in 2013, the need for marketing and tech to work together is more important than ever. Also, accountability must be evenly spread between both departments. The tech team needs to provide the tools and infrastructure to ensure that marketing programs work and drive the results that the business needs. This means that the marketing team needs to educate the tech team about why they make specific requests. What is the lost opportunity cost if the tech team cannot deliver? Accountability starts with understanding the risks and rewards. At the same time, the tech team needs to fully communicate what it can and cannot do to support the marketing team, so that the marketing team approaches the tech team with realistic expectations. Communication between marketing and tech is critical, but there is often a wide gap between these two departments. Companies that bridge this gap will thrive in the future, while others scramble to put out fires and run to catch up.

Gina Schreck (@ginaschreck): Technology is no longer a prisoner of the IT department, and social media needs to be freed from Marketing. Technology is now so tightly woven into everything we do, that successful companies will not just try and figure out how to USE social media, but instead they will explore ways to BE more social in every aspect of their business. I think just as every department within a company uses a phone, every department will soon look at ways to engage both face-to-face and virtual community members.

Elliot Ross (@elliotross): In my years in business technology, one of the most destructive organizational silos I have seen is the silo that can exist between an org’s IT function and its marketing staff. I firmly believe that, in this electronic generation, your IT and marketing leadership have to be joined at the hip, in other words, thinking with a shared brain. Just about every activity in your value chain today can involve the creation or consumption of information that is tied to your product or service. [As for Marketing], you know that the touch points you try to connect depend on technology. And with this prevalence of technology in your business, unless marketing and technology communicate at a relevant level of detail, lost opportunities are endless.

Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich): As a communications professional, I would love the changes in technology to belong to us. But I think it’s less about a discipline and more about who understands how all of it works together under one umbrella and how to use each tool at the right time to reach the right audiences. The professionals who get it will win.

Lilach Bullock (@lilachbullock): Businesses and marketers will have to learn new techniques and act fast if they want to keep up with their consumers’ needs. Only the most creative ideas will help businesses stand out, and they will have to find new tools and ways to capture their audience’s imaginations. But most importantly, I think that they have to embrace the new trends and not stick to what they know from the past.

Viveka von Rosen (@LinkedInExpert): While marketing is relying more and more on the technology of social media platforms, we must remember that marketing should remain focused on communications. Yes, in some cases the medium becomes the message, but we in marketing must remember that there are real people on the other side of the channel, and that’s who we need to be engaging with – no matter the method.

Ray Hiltz (@newraycom): Social technology and the explosion of content marketing have forced companies to look outward and present a unified brand. This cannot happen with the old silo model. The new reality is “business is marketing,” and much of the marketing happens in the digital space.

Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar): The most important disruption for CMOs and CIOs is digital transformation: the combination of social, mobile, cloud, data, and apps in the enterprise. So what will a “social business” look like in 2020? According to Forrester Research Director Christopher Mines, “The CIO will play the role of orchestrator and integrator of external services and service providers instead of internally building and owning such applications directly, while at the same time directing more front-end, customer-facing work.” Effective CIOs will take responsibility for turning innovation into business value. (Doesn’t that sound similar to what today’s marketers do?)

What do you think will happen in the future Please share your thoughts – this conversation isn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, as business becomes more social-centric, this topic will become even more important.
____________

Image Credit: Thanks to Vala Afshar for sharing a presentation featuring quote by Mark P. McDonald (@markpmcdonald).



This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Kind of Leadership Legacy Are You Creating?


Recently, President Obama made a ground-breaking announcement when he nominated Janet Yellen as the next Federal Reserve Chair. Without a doubt, the fact that Yellen is a woman is newsworthy because she will be the first woman in this role, however, there was something even more memorable at President Obama’s news conference in early October.

Do you remember what he said when he introduced Yellen? Yes, he mentioned her background, her history at the Federal Reserve, and he also mentioned her husband, who is noteworthy in his own right as a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics. But the most memorable statement was when he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus...the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.”

How many leaders do you know who warrant those words from the highest spot in an organization? How often does the CEO in your world talk about employees with that much support and admiration? What do your employees have to accomplish in order to be recognized by the top leaders in your organization?

Obama did not hesitate when he stated his compliment of Yellen’s leadership style nor was he envious of her capabilities. But what about the top leaders in your world? Would they be able to provide their unwavering support and admiration for one, two, or even three employees without becoming envious of the shift in attention? Certainly, if the President of the United States can share the spotlight, your CEO and top leaders can too.

What did you learn from this news conference? Spend time thinking about how you want your leadership legacy to evolve – and what you want it to represent. Don’t be envious of others or their accomplishments. Instead, sing the praises of others, and in the process, your leadership legacy will shine.


Image Credit: chanpipat via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Do You Hold Your Customers Hostage?


Did you consider your customers when you chose and installed your telephone system? Or did you just purchase the cheapest system you could find and then forgot about it? If you didn’t involve your marketing team, you may be holding your customers hostage without even realizing it.

When customers call your business, they may be lucky and reach a live person. But the likelihood of that is getting smaller and smaller in today’s technological and social era. There is more likelihood of getting lost in a flurry of customer service passes, or even worse, voice-mail hell.


Do your customers get stuck with silence, or do they get to listen to loud music? Even worse, do they have to listen to the same female voice interrupting the annoying music every 30 seconds, “You are now number (fill in the blank) in the queue. We will be with you shortly.”

If your business phone system is guilty of any of the above, it’s time to switch strategies and implement a better form of phone communication with your customers.

When someone contacts your business, the reason is most likely the result of a problem or complaint. While most realize they may not reach a live person, they want to know that they are a valued customer. So if they need to remain on hold, they want their time to be spent productively. And while customers can use email, texting, online chats, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc., the easiest form of communication is still the phone call.

Therefore, it’s YOUR responsibility to add value. This can be done in many ways:

[1] Feature your company President – tape a few different 30-second promos.
[2] Tape a 30-second promo that discusses the key attributes of your brand.
[3] Tape a 30-second promo that explains the key features of your products or services.
[4] Tape a 30-second promo that lists upcoming events (tradeshows, seminars, webinars).
[5] Tape a 30-second promo: For more information, visit our website at (insert your URL).

But above all, no matter what your business eventually says in your improved on hold messages, make sure to also include this message: We realize your time is valuable and thank you for waiting – and we also thank you for your business.




Image Credit: Winnond via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.



This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Customer Service vs. Lost Business


When new companies open their doors, they want business. It’s that simple. Most companies go above and beyond with their opening day promotions, some give discounts, and others give away products or free food or drinks. So why would a new store on the day of its Grand Opening turn away business?

On a recent weekend afternoon, I visited an office products store. While I had intended to visit a store near my home, I drove by another store in the same chain with a large sign announcing its grand opening, so I drove into the parking lot eager to see a new store. But what greeted me was a huge disappointment.

I immediately found the item I needed, a printer cartridge, and got in line to pay. There were a few other customers walking around the store, but no one else in line. However, there were about 8 employees scattered around the store. The employee closest to me walked behind the counter and asked, “Are you paying with cash or a credit card?” I was a little taken aback since, again, this was a new store, and the remark I would have expected was something along the lines of “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

I responded that I was going to use a credit card, and the employee immediately pulled out a small device from his pocket. It turned out that the device was a mobile credit card payment device. Since I saw several traditional cash registers behind the counter, I asked if I could use one instead. And then, as if a tornado hit the building, the employee rudely asked, “WHY?”

Apparently, this employee had not been trained on either the new technology or how to interact with customers. If he had, he would have responded in this manner, “Since this is a new store, we’re lucky to feature this amazing new technology to make the payment process easier for our valued customers. If you have any concerns about security, here are the ways we encrypt your credit card data. But if you would prefer, we can still use the traditional register.”

Not every retail outlet can be a duplication of Apple stores. Employees at the Apple stores explain their mobile payment devices and how customer data is protected. And can anyone recall an instance when customer data was breached at an Apple store? None have been discussed in the mainstream media.

However, with so many data breaches in the news, the company (of the store I visited) should be proactive. What is the store’s policy for encryption? When is the data deleted from the store’s system? The customer needs to know how the credit card information is protected from point of sale to saved transaction in the company’s database. All employees should know how the process works. Granted, not all customers may express an interest or concern, but since this is new technology for the store, all employees should be prepared.

While the signage above this store invites customers to “Be a Part of Our New Experience,” perhaps, the company’s leadership team should visit the store as undercover customers. It should come as no surprise that, due to the employee
s attitude and lack of training, I left the store without my printer cartridge.

In the words of customer service expert Shep Hyken, “Customers are smarter than ever and looking for more value. More than just customer service, they want a great customer experience.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flipboard As A Branding Tool


While you may be familiar with the big players in the social media arena (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest), there are many smaller or periphery social sites that can be useful when building your brand. If you aren’t familiar with Flipboard, it’s definitely worth your time to check it out and learn more about it.

Wikipedia describes Flipboard as “a social network aggregation, magazine-format application software that collects the content of social media and other websites and presents it in magazine format…According to co-founders Mike McCue and Evan Doll, they devised the idea during a brainstorming session when they tried to imagine what the web would look like if it were designed from scratch. The design they came up with placed emphasis on the social web and the ability to consume content in a graphical magazine-like format.” (1) The application was originally designed for the iPad and was recognized as Apple's iPad App of the Year in 2010. (2) 


In 2012, Flipboard was released for Android phones, and a Windows 8 version was unveiled in 2013. Therefore, in what seems like a reverse technology move but also a way to increase the user base, the app that was initially designed for Apple’s tablet experience is NOW also available for smartphones – with viewing available on desktops too.

It’s quick and easy to create a Flipboard account:
[1] Open the app on a smartphone or tablet.
[2] Click create an account.
[3] Choose a username – it should be your company name or brand name, but be consistent with your other social sites because you will not be able to change the name later (unfortunately, Flipboard does not allow you to change your username, unlike Facebook and Pinterest).
[4] Add an email and contact name for account verification.
[5] Browse through some of Flipboard’s topics and follow some
[6] Create your own magazines – examples include your industry, your employee experts, your industry experts, your product/service news, etc.
[7] Start flipping content into your magazines – this is Flipboard’s terminology to add content.

Here are some of the reasons why Flipboard is a useful branding tool:
[1] Clean interface: screens are not cluttered with too much text and graphics.
[2] Page turning process: users can easily turn the “pages” to read more articles.
[3] Free cost: there is no charge for the app, so users can access the app from smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
[4] Integration with other social sites: other apps are accessible via Flipboard (for example, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.).
[5] Comments and sharing: users can easily add their comments to the "flipped" articles and can also email the articles to others.

According to the Flipboard website, “Millions of people use Flipboard to read and collect the news they care about, curating their favorite stories into their own magazines on any topic imaginable. Now magazines created by our readers can be shared and enjoyed on the web by anyone, anywhere…Our mission is to let people discover and share content in beautiful, simple, and meaningful ways.”

While many businesses are starting to realize that they need to pay for advertising on Facebook and Twitter to justify their time investment, Flipboard is a virtual billboard – at no charge. If you keep your content fresh and interesting – not full of sales pitches, you can easily grow your Flipboard following.

So, with all this reading, sharing, and commenting, why wouldn’t your business take advantage of Flipboard’s branding advantages?

_____________ 
 
Image Credit: Courtesy of Flipboard – Branding & Brand Equity Magazine by Debbie Laskey, MBA.

Sources for this post:
(1) Wikipedia: Flipboard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flipboard

(2) Business Insider: Apple Calls Flipboard “iPad App of the Year”
http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-calls-flipboard-ipad-app-of-the-year-2010-12 






This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is Your Business Marketing to Millennials?


We live in the “Age of the Customer,” an age that began in 2010 according to Forrester Research. In this new era, the customer matters more than any single strategy. Empowered buyers – whether they’re existing customers or prospects – demand a new level of brand experience.

In the past, brand marketing was a one-way street, but the tides have turned. Due to social media, the process now promotes two-way conversations between brands and customers. In addition, people expect a higher level of customer service because social media makes it easier for companies to go the extra mile in all of their customer touch points.

Millennials stand at the front of this new age. The generation born between 1977 and 1995 is the largest in American history. It outnumbers the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Known as Generation Y and the Millennials, this group boasts 80 million strong, or to put it in terms that all businesses would like to add to their customer base, 25% of the US population.

The book, Marketing to Millennials by Jeff Fromm and Christie Garton, describes the group: “Not willing to be passive consumers any longer, this generation wants to actively participate, co-create, and most importantly, be included as partners in the brands they love…They are social creatures who expect their brands to engage them. [And] if that expectation isn’t met, they’ll leave and spend their money elsewhere.”

Do you know these facts about Millennials?
[1] The number of connections on their social networks is significantly higher than non-millennials.
[2] Social media connections enrich their daily lives: “I feel like I’m missing something if I’m not on Facebook every day.”
[3] They seek out brands in social media and value a social presence.
[4] They contribute and consume more web content than non-millennials (blogs, RSS feeds, websites, and ratings sites).
[5] They shop collaboratively and rely on input from social circles in making product decisions.
[6] They want to experience quality customer service and share their experiences with their connections via Facebook and Twitter.
[7] They want to make a long-lasting positive impact on the world and will support companies that do the same.

Every day, there are millions of status updates on Facebook and Twitter by Millennials. Chris Altcheck recently posed some good questions: How can businesses analyze those updates? How quickly can the updates, ideas, and feedback be reviewed to provide useful and actionable content? These are roadblocks for the Millennial generation to overcome. But your business can be front and center with Millennials if you address these issues.

So is your business marketing to Millennials? If the answer is no, don’t let the Millennials boat leave the dock. Your business may not be around to welcome the Millennials back to shore.
_____________

Sources for This Post:
(1) Marketing to Millennials, Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever by Jeff Fromm and Christie Garton:
http://www.marketingtomillennialsbook.com

Connect on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jefffromm

Connect on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MillennialMktg

(2) “Millennials and the Power of Social” by Chris Altchek:
http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2013/09/the-power-of-social.html

Image Credit: Ambro via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.



This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Tale of Customer Experience and Exact Change


Recently, I visited a neighborhood restaurant and placed a take-out order. Easy transaction, you might think, but you’d be wrong. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. With no manager in sight, I decided that a blog post with a copy to the company’s CEO would be my only recourse.

As we all know, the casual dining space is very crowded. While more upscale than fast-food options, such as, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Pollo Loco, there are restaurants that claim they provide a quality customer experience. While these restaurants don’t have white tablecloths, 14 karat gold utensils, or waiters in tuxedos, they offer more than the cookie-cutter McDonald’s menu. At the casual dining restaurants, you place your order by reading a large menu on the wall, pay for your meal, and then find a table. Your food is delivered to your table – often with a smile and a request to bring anything else you might want or need.

Now back to my recent experience: after I placed my order and paid, the employee gave me my change. I immediately noticed an error and asked for the correct change. The employee looked at me and was clearly annoyed. He said, “No one has ever asked for exact change before.”

In the words of Annette Franz Gleneicki, Voice of the Customer expert (@CXJourney on Twitter) and fellow positive customer experience advocate, “Regardless of whether it’s one cent or one dollar, it’s not up to the employee to decide whether you get change or not. Maybe some people don’t care about a penny or small amounts of change, but it’s the principle. Employees should never assume anything about the customer. For that matter, companies in general should never assume they know (anything about) their customers. They should ask AND they should listen.”

According to Anna Papachristos of 1to1 Media (@AP1to1 on Twitter), “To gain the advantage in today’s competitive market, brands must work to understand the customer experience.”

Here’s proof that this restaurant’s employee did not understand the customer experience:
[1] The time of the transaction was 7pm, and the restaurant closed at 8pm. If someone had already emptied the registers, and there was no cash to make change, then employees should have alerted customers at the beginning of any orders taken after 7pm.
[2] If the employee did not have sufficient cash in his register to complete my transaction, he should have explained the situation and asked another employee to share cash from another register.
[3] If the employee did not count the change correctly, he should have apologized and rectified the situation by providing the additional change.
[4] Under no circumstances should the employee have become noticeably annoyed because a customer requested correct change
[5] A customer should never be put in a situation where he has to request change that is rightfully his.

According to Gary Edwards, the Chief Customer Officer of Empathica (@DoctorGE on Twitter), “By understanding the customer journey, brands can quickly identify where they are failing to meet or exceed customer expectations, as well as help identify the key drivers of loyalty on which to focus, ways to change staff behavior, and how to leverage brand advocates when working towards improving overall experience.”

Where was the employee training in this restaurant? Where was the attention to customer service? And where was the attention to the customer experience? This will not come as a surprise, but I will not be returning to this restaurant.

Can you guess the restaurant? Share your guess in the comments section.


Image Credit: Gualberto107 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marketing Is Taking Charge and Leading the Customer Experience


How does your company respond to customers? Are questions answered in a timely manner? Are problems resolved by return email or phone call? Does your customer service department operate 24/7 or only within specific hours? Do members of your customer service team have the authority to go above and beyond to make sure that customers are happy? Do your customer service reps assume customers are wrong when they complain? As you consider these questions and the overall concept of customer experiences, fasten your seat belt and get ready for some astounding statistics.

“In the United States alone, roughly $83 billion is lost each year as a result of poor customer experiences. (1) That’s more than the revenue for the entire US e-commerce retail sector. (2)”

While some companies understand how customer service impacts and improves financial performance, there are far too many that are clueless. The IBM Center for Applied Insights regularly surveys professionals from around the world and across many industries and recently announced the results of the IBM State of Marketing 2013 Survey. Hopefully, the results will prompt you to re-consider how you treat customers in your day-to-day business interactions and improve all of your customer touchpoints.

“Last year, forward-thinking marketers were working hard to redefine their role and influence within the enterprise. Today, they’ve earned a seat at the business strategy table and are taking on the hard world of “owning” the customer experience across the enterprise. They’re seeking to integrate customer insight and omnichannel engagement – including social and mobile, as well as more traditional channels – to coordinate activities and improve the overall customer experience.”

The data showed that leading companies outperformed financially because their marketing leaders shared three key characteristics:
[1] Know customer context and integrate accordingly – demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness to fast-shifting expectations and circumstances.
[2] Act on insights systematically – make good use of technology to develop customer insights and act on them in a consistent manner.
[3] Take a broader view of the customer experience – use rigorous measurement to guide actions and build customer relationships that grow and strengthen over time.

The survey provided an example from a well-known international brand that many of us will recognize. “Consider how Apple has taken ownership of the entire customer experience by using marketing technology, insight, and engagement in a carefully orchestrated way. When customers want to schedule an in-store service appointment, they encounter a seamless blend of live web information and interaction, relevant in-store displays, and in-person employee interaction that is both customized to them and made more convenient by mobile technology. The entire process flows smoothly. An experience like this does more than employ channels effectively. It sends a powerful message that the brand is invested in building a better customer relationship by making it easier to interact and conduct transactions. This cross-channel illustration displays broad understanding, knowledge of context, and ability to take systematic action, all brought to life through a single customer interaction.”

How about your brand? While your brand doesn’t own the customer experience in the same manner as Apple does, there are definitely ways in which you can improve your process. Perhaps, you can improve your brand’s packaging, distribution channels, pricing model, or promotional strategy. How often do you change your strategy in real-time? Do you combine multiple channels to share your messaging? Are all of your brand messages consistent? What happens with online transactions are abandoned? And do you track your customer lifetime value?

In the 2013 survey, “leading marketers clearly defined the customer context and its value to the business – and created a case for a larger role in the end-to-end customer experience…This expanded role expressed itself if many ways. These range from an in-depth understanding of how different touchpoints affect customer context to deeper involvement in individual channel activities related to customer experience, such as, brand training for call center and sales staff. This broader view of – and involvement in – the customer experience makes leading marketers stewards of their brands, able to bring clarity, consistency, and high standards to every customer interaction.

 
Leading companies extended the influence of marketing in much higher percentages than their competitors:
[1] They contacted customers to gauge their satisfaction.
[2] They monitored and tracked delivery commitments to ensure fulfillment.
[3] They identified cross and upsell opportunities for sales and customer-facing staff.
[4] They trained sales and customer-facing staff on product and service lines.
[5] They designed marketing offers for point of purchase.

“Leaders use every interaction as an opportunity to enhance the overall experience. To do this well, a company needs to be hypersensitive to not only behavior, history, and preferences, but also the real-time circumstances customers are facing…[And also] a clear vision of the end game. [Leaders] view marketing as much more than a siloed function. Its influence – and responsibility – extends across the entire buy/market/sell/service cycle to bring all channels and all kinds of interaction together.” 


So, what about your business? What have the highlights from this IBM report prompted you to change in your outlook about customer experience marketing – and implement as a result?

__________________ 

 
To read the entire report, here’s the link: http://j.mp/153u8iy

(1) Poor Customer Service Costs Companies $83 Billion Annually:
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/122502/#axzz2VqTBpIp

(2) Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce:
http://www.census.gov/retail

Image Credit: Image created on tagxedo.com.





This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Want to Improve Your Brand? Here Are 25 Ways


If you ask people to define a brand, you’ll get hundreds of definitions. Everything from a company’s main product to secondary products to a tagline to a competitive differentiator can all define your brand. But as customer engagement expert Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) explains, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. The room is the web, it’s getting bigger, and it’s social.”

So, do you know what people say about your brand? Do you monitor brand mentions in social media? What do those metrics mean? Since my favorite marketing discussions focus on brand development, brand equity, and branding strategies, I asked 25 fellow brand marketers to share their favorite marketing tips.

Julie Hunt (@juliebhunt): Branding is becoming more than names, logos, and company identity. Positive customer experience is becoming entwined with brand value.

Bernadette Jiwa (@bernadettejiwa): We think our job is to change how people feel about our product or service. But, in fact, our job is to change how people feel about themselves when they use that product or service.

William Arruda (@williamarruda): Engage all employees in the brand promise from sourcing and onboarding through separation. They’re all brand assets and potent ambassadors.

Doug Rawady (@dougrawady): Make sure that your brand is integrated into your organization’s DNA such that every aspect of the business reflects and is in-sync with the brand’s promise.

Julia Carcamo (@jccarcamo): Know your audience. It will help you understand what the experience needs to be and how to communicate it.

Michael A. Stelzner (@Mike_Stelzner): Create an unforgettable image for your site. We use a cartoon character that people don’t forget.

John Freshney (@WiseCrow1): Focus your branding on what you are great at, not what you aspire to be. Staff will live your brand, and customers will love the experience.

Kent Huffman (@KentHuffman): Focus your messaging on the most significant differentiator your brand offers and what value that brings to your customers.

Jay Baer (@jaybaer): Don’t be afraid to make the story bigger. Engage with your customers and prospects in ways that improve their lives, even if it’s not your products and services. Remember, helping beats selling.

Jeffrey Summers (@JeffreySummers): You build better brands through better guest experiences. You build better guest experiences by adding meaningfully differentiated value at every single guest touchpoint.

Tim Moore (@TimMoore): Build your brand around relationships, not rules, policies, color palettes, or buzzwords. If you do, the “out of business” clock is ticking.

Paul Biedermann (@PaulBiedermann): Be consistent with your branding throughout your various channels and marketing touchpoints, both online and offline.

Brandemix (@Brandemix): Make the brand authentic. It must reflect a company’s actual mission, vision, and values. Otherwise, it’s a false promise.

Karl Speak (@speakk and @brandtoolbox)): Creating and sustaining a strong alignment between employees’ personal brands and an organization’s brand is the most powerful brand strategy.

Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer): You are what you tweet – make sure you update your branding guidelines to include your voice for social media.

Aaron Biebert (@Biebert): Always look good. Don’t put out low-level pictures, videos, or designs. People don’t trust outdated or poorly-designed brands.

Sandi Krakowski (@sandikrakowski): Focus on relationships. This will increase conversion.

JD Lasica (@jdlasica): Branding is not about design or logos or look. It’s about positioning and messaging. Your company needs a consistent message to the public, whether it’s your website, social channels, marketing collateral, or banner flying over Giants Stadium. Tell your story across different media and formats, and understand that, in the end, your customers determine your brand. Be yourself and be true.

Brand You Consulting (@BrandYOUGroup): Understand that the market is constantly changing. Position your brand one step ahead so you’re the one affecting change instead of being affected by it.

Sisarina (@Sisarina and @MelanieSpring): Spend time and money on a logo and make sure you hire an expert to pull it out of you.

Fiona Vesey (@FionaVesey): It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Building rapport with potential customers is all about doing the right things, as opposed to saying the right things. Choosing the right tone of voice, the correct marketing mediums, through to whether you use a giveaway versus a discount – these all affect how people interpret what you say about your brand.

Kathi Kruse (@kathikruse): It’s never been more important to have a customer-centric culture. Everything you say and do – including how you treat your employees – is being broadcast throughout the web. Make sure your culture is ready for prime time. Being able to tell the story of your business in a meaningful way connects your brand to your prospects and customers. By communicating how you do business, you initiate the customer experience long before they walk on the lot or visit your website.

Phil Gerbyshak (@philgerb): Be as consistent as possible in usernames so they can be easily remembered and mention the actual URL.

Anna Rydne (@CoSkills): Find your authentic voice! That’s the most important thing when building relationships with customers.

David Brier (@davidbrier): Cookie cutters are for baking, not branding. It’s one of those points too often overlooked by companies, so to carry the cooking metaphor further, it goes like this: Companies use the same ingredients as one another. These being the same clichĂ©s, the same imagery, the same tired formula messages, yet they expect a different result. If two or more chefs used the same ingredients, the only way one would outshine the other would be to apply ingenuity, using one of the ingredients in a different way, using it in some unexpected approach, shaking it up. Otherwise, their cooking efforts would all blend and be impossible to distinguish one from the other, kind of like today’s all-you-can-eat-buffets of endless brand messages. If you omit the ingenuity and the insight to use some ingredient differently, you won’t be branding, you’ll wind up blanding, which is worse (and flatter) than the flattest (and least palatable) soufflĂ©.

And finally, I wish to thank Ken Peters (Person of Interest, Nocturnal Branding Studio) for my favorite statement on this subject: “Advertising shouts at you. Marketing talks to you. Branding connects with you.”

What’s your favorite branding tip? Please chime in.


Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out Ted's work at http://www.tedgoff.com





This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Does Your Business Have a Chief Customer Officer?



Department store chain Kohl’s has created a new role as part of its executive team. An executive from Starbucks, Michelle Gass, recently joined Kohl’s as its first Chief Customer Officer.

According to Wikipedia, a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is “the executive responsible in customer-centric companies for the total relationship with customers. This position was developed to provide a single vision across all methods of customer contact. The CCO is often responsible for influencing corporate activities of customer relations in the call center, sales, marketing, user interface, finance (billing), fulfillment, and post-sale support. The CCO typically reports to the chief executive officer, and is potentially a member of the board of directors.”

According to the Chief Customer Officer Council, the CCO is “an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

Let’s return to Kohl’s. There is no denying that its new CCO has experience with one of the world’s most well-known brands, but can that experience be applied toward apparel and housewares? In addition, how can the development of industry-leading coffee drinks, such as the Frappucino, help to re-energize the customer experience at Kohl’s?

When it comes to industries, the department store chain industry is radically different from the coffee bar/restaurant industry. While Starbucks revolutionized the coffee drinking experience and coffee industry, it’s light years away from apparel. While customers may purchase coffee machines in its stores, the majority of Starbucks customers purchase coffee or other drinks at its locations. And no one makes a trip to Starbucks to buy apparel.

When it comes to target audiences, visitors to Starbucks coffee stores differ from Kohl’s shoppers. While Kohl’s tagline is “Expect Great Things,” no one can say that shopping at Kohl’s is the same experience as shopping at Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s. At Kohl’s, the focus is “incredible savings, hassle-free returns, and easy shopping.” As a result, the entire concept of customer experience cannot be copied and pasted.

It is admirable that Kohl’s places the same importance on the customer experience as more highbrow companies, but the jury is still out as to whether the company can successfully execute customer experience marketing initiatives that will create the same level of customer experiences as industry leaders such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Nordstrom.

What about your business? Do you have a Chief Customer Officer? If not, do you have plans for adding one in the future? Why or why not?


________________


Thanks to fellow IBM blogger, Shadra Bruce, for her article’s inspiration for this post.
http://www.midsizeinsider.com/en-us/article/gass-to-pioneer-chief-customer-officer-r

Note: Above abbreviations correspond to the following C-Level roles:
Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer/Chief Diversity Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer/Chief Information Security Officer, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Marketing Officer/Chief Branding Officer, and Chief Customer Officer.




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What Story Does Your Brand Tell?


In today’s competitive marketplace, a compelling story is critical for your brand to remain front and center with customers and prospective customers. If your business does not create a compelling story that connects with prospective and existing customers or strikes a nerve, your business will not last very long.

What brand stories immediately come to mind? Here are some.

[1] You know him as Mark, Mark Z, or simply as Zuck. But we all suspect that we know the story (thanks to the movie, The Social Network). Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard so that he could dedicate himself 24/7 to the creation of a networking website. The website now known as Facebook has revolutionized how we connect with friends, family, and others – and has become an international phenomenon with over 1 billion users. According to ZDNet, users log in for 12 and-a-half minutes every day. And according to ComScore, U.S. desktop users spend 6 hours a month on Facebook, while mobile users spend an average of 11 hours on the site.

[2] Most people attribute the automobile to Henry Ford. But in actuality, he developed and manufactured the first auto that many middle-class Americans could afford. He was also instrumental in the development of the assembly line and a franchise system of dealerships throughout the United States and on six continents. One famous statement of his was, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Thank goodness, the Ford vehicles started the auto industry, or we’d all be riding horses.

[3] While Susan Komen for the Cure has been in the news recently, the main reason that the charity was created is a compelling story. The founder (Nancy G. Brinker) launched the charity to honor the memory of her sister (Susan G. Komen) who died of breast cancer and to raise money to eliminate the disease. Despite all the current negative press, the color pink will forever represent that charity and breast cancer awareness.

[4] While the publishing industry is undergoing a transition from print to digital, there is one newspaper that embodies its city, The New York Times. While you may not know the newspaper began in the mid-1800’s, there is no doubt that you have heard of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Art and Theater, Op-Ed section, and the Opinion section. Whenever someone wants to be heard, he or she comments in The New York Times. The newspaper’s motto was “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but on its website, the motto was changed to, “All the News That’s Fit to Click.”

[5] According to Southwest Airlines Chairman/President and CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest was conceived on a cocktail napkin when San Antonio businessman Rollin King and his attorney, Herb Kelleher, met at the St. Anthony Club and etched out what would become the “Texas Triangle,” charting a path for low-fare travel between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The vision was simple: offer business people a faster, more efficient way to travel at a lower cost and do it with warm, personable service and a smile.” Kelleher knew that in order for his employees to do a good job, they had to have fun. So Southwest allowed flight attendants to wear shorts instead of uncomfortable uniforms and tell silly jokes to passengers over the intercom. The airline continues to provide peanuts, soft drinks, and juice – when competitors charge or don’t offer any food or drinks. Southwest also invites passengers to travel with their baggage without charging, because according to their ads, “Bags fly free.”

So, as you contemplate the importance of storytelling for your brand, consider these questions. How do you decide on a compelling story? What elements do you include and which do you leave out? What is an appropriate length for your story? Do you feature a person (for example, your founder) in your story? But above all, what is the key take-away from your brand’s story, and is it easy to grasp or embrace?

If you cannot easily answer these questions, you need to go back to the brand drawing board and rewrite your brand story, or you’re going to lose customers. What
s YOUR favorite brand story?
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Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon with this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at http://tomfishburne.com.




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.