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

(2) Business Insider: Apple Calls Flipboard “iPad App of the Year”

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:

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

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

(2) “Millennials and the Power of Social” by Chris Altchek:

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.