Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's All About the Touchpoints!

I read a recent post about customer touchpoints by a fellow customer experience advocate, and it planted a seed. The post challenged all businesses to understand the importance of all customer touchpoints, but unfortunately, few actually do.

In the words of Annette Franz, “What is a touchpoint? There are many different ways that people define it, but in a nutshell, it’s a place or point that a customer touches, or interacts, with your brand. Those interactions can be in-your-face obvious or they can be those little things that may be less obvious or not as visible.”

How often have you been in a physical store or visited an online store, received an email, read an ad or billboard – and felt as if a business actually valued your business? The reality is probably not too often.

A famous brand known for revolutionizing the coffee industry by creating $4 cups of coffee is also known for its touchpoints. First, there were Baristas – not just employees who brewed coffee and poured it into cups for customers. Then there was a new way to label coffee cup size. Then there was a diverse array of specialty coffee drinks with options for customization. And there was the partnership with Apple and iTunes. Then there was an App to take the place of cash when making a purchase in its stores. Then small kiosks appeared in grocery stores, and finally, this brand’s products were sold in grocery stores.

But the most deep-rooted touchpoint for Starbucks was noting a customer’s name on the cup during the order process. However, despite all the massive growth of this brand, this critical touchpoint has been lost. Too often, either the employee/Barista doesn’t request the customer’s name, or when the drink is ready, this is what is heard: “Grande Frappucino.” What happened to “Grande Frappucino for Debbie?” I hardly ever hear this personalized announcement anymore.

Businesses work hard to create customer touchpoints because they are part of the overall marketing strategy. So those who work on the front line and interact with customers should understand their importance - or brand equity will be sacrificed.

Check out the inspiration for this post by Annette Franz (@CXJourney on Twitter):

Image Credit: University of North Carolina Wilmington (http://www.uncw.edu) 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

SoLoMo Is the Latest Marketing Trend

SOCIAL LOCAL and MOBILE, also known as SoLoMo, is the latest trend in marketing and can be broken down into three components. Social consists of friends, networking, content, sharing, and sentiment. Local consists of position, place, vicinity, and proximity (mobile payments). And mobile consists of devices, broadband, WiFi, apps, Internet, cloud, and sensors (for example, using mobile device to access items at home to turn on the oven, close your garage door, activate alarm, etc.).

Priority number one for SoLoMo is to make sure that mobile content is easy to access. For mobile devices, the fewer keystrokes or taps or clicks required, the better. Optimize for screen size. Even if you are a small business, develop a mobile presence to take advantage of the evolving mobile marketplace.

Capitalize on the concepts of immediacy and intimacy with mobile. You can leverage immediacy with location-based marketing. For example, create content related to current events, such as, promotions for March Madness, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day. Also, you can leverage the intimacy aspect of mobile by providing personalized content. Feature calls-to-action that are located at the top of the mobile site, so that consumers can take action once the site loads.

Think about waiting in line at the airport, and no one provides an update about flight delays. Or think about waiting in line at a supermarket that prides itself on speed. What do you do? Today, you don’t have to settle for just waiting in line and getting more and more frustrated.

While still in line, thanks to your mobile device, you can visit a company’s Twitter or Facebook page and reach out to a customer service team. You state your issue and ask for the problem to be resolved in real time. According to a Nuance customer service, 72% of consumers have a more positive view of a company if it provides a mobile customer service app. Some examples are: Geiko Insurance, MyCadillac from General Motors, and Southwest Airlines.

Here are some questions to ask before implementing a SoLoMo marketing initiative:

[1] Why would someone want to check in (letting your network know where you are)?

[2] What value can we offer to someone willing to check in? (discount, free dessert, etc.)

[3] What else are we doing? What are our current promotions? Could we adapt them?

[4] How can we make the people who checked in at our business feel special?

Are you ready to implement a SoLoMo strategy for your business? As you prepare to add SoLoMo to your marketing outreach, remember these three key points.

[1] Mobile isn’t an option – it’s mandatory. Tablets and smartphones drive tons of brand traffic. The more screens that consumers have at their disposal, the better.

[2] Can consumers find you on their mobile devices? Make sure your website is mobile-enabled and focus on the customer experience. Don’t go overboard with design elements, keep it simple. If you create a new site specifically for mobile devices or an app, TEST, TEST, TEST before you promote it.

[3] An integrated marketing approach is essential. Brands must create memorable customer experiences by tying in offers through each SoLoMo venue seamlessly, so make sure your SoLoMo strategy is part of your overall marketing strategy.

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, June 13, 2013

What Happens When Your Business Goes Social?

If someone in the C-Suite within your business has given the go-ahead to dive into social media, that’s both good and bad news. It’s good news because your business can now compete with others in your industry with a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, and a myriad of other sites. But it’s also bad news because you’re steps behind. So as you consider your social media strategy, here are some tips to keep in mind.

The first five tips have graciously been provided by Ed Abrams, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy of IBM Midmarket (@Abrams981 on Twitter), and the second five tips are mine.

[1] Start Small: One way to ease your small business into using social collaboration tools and to make sure they get utilized is to begin one step at a time. Rather than implementing a whole new system, perhaps start a wiki for team status updates – this will get your company sharing and accustomed to the process.

[2] Culture vs. Technology: Culture is extremely important to a successful social business transformation, and it can be even more important than the technology you choose to use. Place an emphasis on promoting a business culture of transparency and trust from senior leadership to those working in the field. Encourage a culture of sharing so that employees feel comfortable sharing their sentiments and collaborating across teams and departments. With these cultural elements in order, an organization is setting itself up for a successful social business transformation.

[3] Education and Training: While most of us have become comfortable using social networking tools in our personal lives, not everyone recognizes the advantages of using these tools to be productive in the workplace. Educate employees about the new tools at their disposal and articulate how they will help increase efficiency. For example, host a workshop on how to create a community and share resources with a broader team using that community.  

[4] Remember Your Audience: Social collaboration tools make it very easy to share data, thoughts, contacts, and more with colleagues AND customers. This convenience is useful for a productive work environment, but it also comes with its own unique set of problems if something inappropriate is shared. Make sure employees understand that it’s critical to think twice before sharing.

[5] Security Matters: Company information that is confidential must remain protected from unauthorized access. Some collaboration software handles security requiring IT assistance each time you add or remove outside team members. A better choice is software that allows new members to be quickly added or removed from a workspace with full security without requiring IT assistance.

[6] Brand Alignment: In order for the social media strategy to resonate with customers and employees, all social media content must be in alignment with the overall marketing plan. There should be a content calendar to facilitate posting and tie all of the different sites together. For example, content on Facebook should correspond in some manner with YouTube videos – the video content should not feature office picnics as opposed to product launch announcements.

[7] Voice of the Business: There should be a defined “voice” for the company in all posted content. If the tone of your business or industry is casual, remain with that tone. But if your business is in the financial services industry, the tone should be more serious and professional. For example, dancing and singing clowns probably would not be appropriate on your Facebook or YouTube pages.

[8] Practice Engagement: The core of social media is engagement. This does not mean shouting from the roof tops. THIS DOES NOT MEAN USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS CONSISTENTLY. It does mean asking questions, using polls, asking for product suggestions, and inviting discussions. While some industries are more suitable for engagement via social media marketing, every business can benefit from customers who become engaged.

[9] Improve Service: Statistics show that many unhappy customers turn to social sites when they experience poor service. Therefore, use your social sites to provide real-time responses when customers and prospective customers voice their concerns, complaints, or issues via social media. Create positive customer experiences each and every time – and you will create priceless word-of-mouth marketing.

[10] Practice Collaboration: Invite customers to provide guest posts on your blog. Request video testimonials from customers and add them to your YouTube channel. Host chats on Google Plus and share slide decks on SlideShare. Before you know it, your business might be contacted by the media to share its expertise.

What tips would you recommend to a business as it builds its digital footprint? Please chime in.

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, June 9, 2013

Summer Reading Series: Branding Is More Than Just Logos

With the arrival of summer, many of us have the time and inclination to catch up on our reading. But whether you read books, magazines, or use tablets or e-readers, you may want a few recommendations. My summer reading series will introduce you to a diverse array of worthwhile and insightful marketing and management books. So without further ado, here’s the second book of the Debbie Laskey Summer Reading Series.

How do you define a brand? Ted Matthews, who has over 40 years of marketing experience, knows what brand really means. His timeless book, “Brand – It Ain’t the Logo – It’s what people think of you,” provides a refresher for anyone who lives and breathes brand marketing on a daily basis.

“A brand is the sum total impression and memory of every remarkable, every so-so, and every negative experience with any and all touchpoints of an organization. A brand is the personality of an organization, product, or service and is judged and assessed a value by everyone it touches…These perceptions of value may, or may not, be what you want them to be. Which suggests a fact that may surprise you: your brand isn’t really yours. You don’t own it – all the people thinking about you do.

According to Matthews, the only synonym for brand is culture – corporate culture. Businesses with world-famous brands have world-famous cultures. Consider the Walt Disney Company: it features Disney University for its employees, and it uses its own Disney lingo: customers are guests, and employees are cast members. Consider Starbucks with its different color aprons for different levels of coffee-making expertise, and its employees are called Baristas. And consider Apple – the company is known for trend-setting products made by people who have a zealous passion for technology and the company.

Something that is related to culture is brand storytelling. Matthews recommends that you “tell brand stories at every opportunity. Illustrate your corporate values in action by retelling the company’s founding whenever someone new joins the team.” Think of how many technology companies started in a garage: Hewlett-Packard, Apple, and Microsoft. And Michael Dell sold computers from his college dorm room. Stories form the core of brands and should be part of the daily brand marketing strategy.

In the words of investor Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a brand, it takes 5 minutes to lose it.” Therefore, Matthews recommends passing on the Super Bowl television commercials that cost close to a million dollars, and instead, focus on the long-term process of building a brand that has value.

There are 7 brand foundation elements when understanding brands:
[1] CORE PURPOSE: Why we exist.
[2] VISION: Where we are going, and how we’ll know we’re there.
[3] MISSION: What we do every day to get there.
[4] VALUES: What we believe in – our principles.
[5] POSITION: How we make a difference.
[6] POSITIONING STATEMENT: How we say (explain) our difference.
[7] CHARACTER: How we act – our voice.

Does everyone in your business from the CEO/President on down to the assistants hired yesterday clearly understand all of these elements? If not, how can you expect your customers to understand why they should buy your brand?

Image Credit: Flickr.com.