Customer Service is Marketing

English: A business ideally is continually see...

English: A business ideally is continually seeking feedback from customers: are the products helpful? are their needs being met? Constructive criticism helps marketers adjust offerings to meet customer needs. Source of diagram: here (see public domain declaration at top). Questions: write me at my Wikipedia talk page (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marketing, Social Selling, Social Business,

Strive for excellence

I’ve long-held the belief that marketing is an enterprise wide responsibility. At its core, effective marketing programs connect the customer experience across the organization from manufacturing and service best practices to customer preferences and the capabilities of your competitors. With the continued advances in technology, it’s become easier to collaborate within your organization to achieve stellar results. The downside to the advance of technology is that your customers can easily assess your capabilities, can see if your actions aligned with your messaging, and most importantly whether or not you live your corporate values.

All to frequently, organizations believe that the role of marketing is  purely to promote the organization’s products or services. In fact, the discipline is much greater than promotion. The substance of marketing is centered around the customer, always! There has been performance programs built since the early ’90’s focused on how an organization can meet or exceed a customers needs.

I know it sounds like an episode from Rod Sterling’s “Twilight Zone”; but, imagine an organization that empowers its line workers to halt production of the entire line when the machinery falls out of alignment, threatening the quality of goods (reducing returns). The accounts receivable clerk responsible for understanding customer issues and sticking with the customer through the entire organization until the issue is resolved satisfactorily (reducing days outstanding and building stronger customer relationships). The customer service department that is charged with ensuring the customer isn’t just satisfied with the fix, but is committed to making the customer happy (leading to your ultimate marketing tool – word of mouth referrals).  Sounds a little outlandish doesn’t it? Based on your customer service experiences would you believe it to be true? I can assure you from my experience that when you put your customer first, good things can and will happen.

As a marketer and an entrepreneur, I’ve been in large organizations with national and international reach, worked with “Mom and Pop’s”, owned my own businesses , and I’ve seen first hand the difference having, or not having, a solid customer service program can have on the bottom line performance of the organization. For solopreneur’s or micro-businesses, you may believe that this is beyond your capabilities. Please take the time to do your research and learn more, because you can do this. In fact, doing so might provide you with the competitive advantage you’ve been yearning for. I’d also recommend that if you haven’t read the work of Micheal Gerber, that you consider get a copy. It was and continues to be fundamental to my successes (read the E-Myth series if you’ve not*).

Lately, it’s the work of talented friends and closely followed virtual mentors that has brought the issue of integrating marketing efforts with those in sales and other customer facing departments to the forefront for me. This weekend, Terry O’Reilly (@terryoinfluence), released his latest installment of “Under the Influence” on CBC Radio One, and the focus was on customer service. The episode has real life examples of organizations that have gone above and beyond to make their customer not only satisfied, but happy. As O’Reilly states “A happy customer, is a loyal customer”. Could you imagine, taking a return on an item that you stock, but didn’t sell, or ordering a pizza for your customer at 2am, when you’re an online fashion store? Well, these organizations not only did it, they encouraged it. I’d recommend that you give the episode a listen, in fact, when you have time, give them all a listen (I believe you’ll enjoy them).

To illustrate how effective customer service is so fundamental to your business success, here are a couple of sample tweets pulled from my feed this morning.

Some quick examples of tweets from today alone. If you’re not doing it already, it’s time to take your marketing/customer service to the next level and learn to deliver an exceptional customer experience. We know that it takes up to seven or more contacts to get a new customer to consider buying from us and only a few to get an existing customer to buy again. As O’Reilly so aptly reminds us “Customer Service doesn’t cost money, it makes money”.

How are you treating your customers?

* no affiliate link

Advertisements

Hootsuite

Hootsuite Goes 3D

Hootsuite Goes 3D (Photo credit: Bibi)

I am proud to announce that I’m now a HootSuite Solution Partner. I’ve been a Hootsuite Pro client for a little while now and the flexibility that it affords in monitoring my social channels has been an eye opener and a real asset.

HootSuite is a social media management system for businesses and organizations to collaboratively execute campaigns across multiple social networks from one secure, web-based dashboard. Key social network integrations include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, plus a suite of social content apps for YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Yammer, Tumblr and more.

In late 2012 HootSuite hit 5 million users, including 79 of the Fortune 100 companies. Along with HootSuite’s web platform, 50% of users access the dashboard through their mobiles including iPhone, Android, Blackberry and iPad. HootSuite also offers localized versions of their dashboard in 13 languages – English, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Dutch, Polish, Korean, and Indonesian.

There are many benefits to HootSuite Pro

Engage: Optimize your audience engagement by creating search streams, scheduling messages and monitoring all of your social network profiles from one customizable web and mobile dashboard.

Collaborate: Invite clients and colleagues to participate in your social media management. Assign messages for follow-up and share streams, helping you increase efficiency.

Analyze: Measure your efforts using over 40 social analytics modules to build and share custom reports. Or select from one of our pre-made templates for quick and easy reporting.

Secure: Share access with team members without compromising security. The team permission levels and advanced sharing options ensure you remain in control of your valuable social profiles and accounts.

See for yourself:

Sign up for a 30-day free trial of HootSuite Pro now: Go Here 

Gordon

Please note that the link is an affiliate link.

The Marketing Automation Dream

Cycle vie des contenus

Content Cycle (Photo credit: raphaelle_ridarch)

Whether you’re in a large-scale enterprise, a small business, or a sole-proprietorship, we are all faced with a similar challenge in today’s changing markets; the shift from the “selling process” to the “buying process”. In the not too distant past, prospects needed to touch base with an organization’s sales department much sooner in the process to get the information they needed to make their buying decision. It provided the sales teams the opportunity to “persuade” prospects with why the product or service you offered was the best for their particular situation. However, in today’s world of digital natives and savvy consumers, the power has changed. Today, consumers can find as much information as they feel necessary to make their buying decision or ask targeted specific questions. It is more likely that they will put more credibility into other sources of information, instead of the well-trained and knowledgeable staff in your organization. Right or wrong, Joe, their recently met social network friend, is a trusted resource on what you have to offer.

In today’s marketing, that means adapting to this new model of business and integrating proven traditional marketing techniques with new digital tools and channels to get your message out. Instead of broadcasting your message, you’ll spend time planning how to make your information available to your prospects, when, where and how they want to consume it. You’ll be working diligently to provide valuable content to help them before, during and after the buying decision. I hear you, it’s a common refrain; how am I supposed to do all of this at the same time as run my business? It’s a good question and where marketing automation comes into the mix.

By definition; Marketing Automation is the process of automating repetitive tasks that are normally done manually, requiring time and resources that could be better used elsewhere. One of the goals of using automation, specifically in marketing is to streamline sales and marketing processes to improve efficiency and reduce potential human error. It’s main goal is to use techniques to improve the overall customer experience, to move closer to a meaningful discussion, ideally in person.

Automated Marketing Programs:

The outcome of most marketing efforts is to generate leads, whether that is a new prospect or up selling to existing clients to other offerings or more enhanced services. When implementing an automated marketing program your goal should be to improve the engagement from the inquiry stage to the close of the deal with your prospect (imagine Marketing and Sales living together in harmony). Complete marketing automation programs provide you with the ability to create digital and behavioral consumer profiles that allow you to market to a very specific niche of consumers. A full program will consist of content creation, lead generation, email messaging creation, comprehensive and unique landing pages, drip or nurture marketing campaigns for each segment you identify. Sounds like a lot and it is (most you are already doing, if not all), but by using an automation system the time required to complete each of these tasks is reduced significantly. It will allow you to have a meaningful conversation with your prospects about what matters most to them in the buying process.

Marketing Automation, Lead Generation

Goal is to get Face to Face

By way of example (as noted in an earlier blog post How not to sell an $18,000 Car), recently we bought a second vehicle for our home. We did our research, narrowed our choices to one known brand (used) and one unknown brand (new). All we needed was a test drive to make our final decision. We used the new brand’s online tools to price the vehicle, compare it to other brands and finally to arrange a test drive, all along sharing critical information with the brand. Five dealerships later, we finally got the test drive in the model we wanted. Had the organization as a whole, instead of independent dealerships, had an effective program in place, we should have been in and out and very satisfied within a couple of days, not the weeks it actually took which almost cost them the sale.

“By publishing content that shows buyers your understand their problems and can show them how to solve them, you build credibility”  Ardath Albee, author of EMarketing Strategies for Complex Sales.

The Process:

Let’s imagine how the marketing automation process works (this is true for any product/service).

  1. Create content to attract prospects to your organization (Blog, Ebook, Whitepaper, Newsletter, Imagery and Video) and share that content with your networks.
  2. Capture the leads driven by your content (using a sCRM system). Establish the quality of the lead and where they may be in the buying cycle/consumer journey.
  3. Nurture your lead(s) – provide additional content that helps the prospect know more about the solutions to their particular issues, show value and thought leadership (blog, additional resources in Ebook, video, podcasts). Monitor the feedback and tweak your messaging to better serve the prospect. This is accomplished by creating compelling email marketing campaigns, not one offs, but a series, spread out over time.
  4. Convert the consumer of your information to a consumer of your product or service. This is achieved by having generated a better understanding of the prospect and their pain points and demonstrating you can provide the solution).
  5. Deliver your product/service and provide outstanding service. Provide content on best practices. For example, you own a beauty salon, and to provide added service you’ve created a series of How to videos on your website so that your customer can maintain their look in between visits. You also recognize, that some will be leery of trimming their own bangs, or worse aren’t and shouldn’t. To show greater value, you offer a touch up in between scheduled visits. You now generated the loyalty and opportunity to offer more products or services.
  6. Up sell your customers. They’ve signed on to your basic package, love your product and your service. It’s time to share additional information to show how moving up the product scale can save them what matters most (and to most of us it’s time or money). Demonstrating the value proposition of moving to an enhanced service is huge. For example, if you are a Hootsuite user, you know the free version is very useful. However, the power in the Pro plan is immense and may help advance your business at a very low and effective price point, including having two of you able to post, monitor and respond to your various social channels.
  7. Get Referrals! You’ve earned your customers respect, trust and vote of confidence. They now turn to your first and foremost when they have a question. Sorry Joe, but you’ve been replaced. You may now reap the rewards of the fields you sowed, by cultivating new leads from your current customers. You’ve shown they matter to you, you’ve tweaked your messaging and reacted positively to both negative and positive product/service feedback from your customers. They are brand champions and would be pleased to share your company with their personal and guarded networks.

If you think about it, you’ve all likely experienced marketing automation at work. Have you downloaded an Ebook about your favorite hobby, watched an instructional webcast or signed up for a newsletter on great Italian recipes. If you have, you’ll recall receiving a thank you email, a follow up message about other activities, a call to subscribe to the paid version that provides greater details, etc.; marketing automation at it’s best.

Tools:

There are many excellent all-in-one marketing automation systems on the market that seamlessly connect to CRM systems. They vary in scale and price depending on the size of your organization, your prospect list and so forth. On average you can expect to invest a dollar figure between $300 and $1,000 per month. I’ve been fortunate enough to have used an all-in-one and test drove many others in the past and they are worth their weight in gold. I understand that not everyone may have this commitment in their current budgets. It’s okay if you don’t, you can do this on a limited budget. To do so, all it takes is more planning, a front to end strategy, a piecemeal of tools, and an investment in time (as not all the processes will be seamlessly integrated). So for example (please note all suggestions are just that, are available at no or low cost and should be researched to meet your organizational goals):

  • Using a blogging platform (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad) and create the content you are going to share;. 
  • Promote your content via email on an email system (MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc) and through your social sharing channels (Twitter, G+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Create a unique landing page for your content to capture the leads that are generated from your content (for example a child page on your website or using Premise if on WordPress).
  • Integrate your email list into a CRM system, ideally one that provides for social integration (Nimble, SugarCRM, SalesForce, etc)
  • Create and nurture an email campaign within the email system you’ve chosen and provide a thank you, an automated follow up within a given period of time, an offer for more content, a free review, etc..
  • Monitor your social channels with a social management tool such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, etc. Use the information from listening to your networks to tweak your offerings and create additional content to resolve their issues. Also use tools such as Google Analytics to monitor your engagement, where and who is consuming and sharing your content to more efficiently use your channels to get your message out to your network (prospects, customers, advocates, influencers, etc).
  • Engage with your prospect to get additional information, invite them to connect with you on a webinar, or to contact you directly to answer any lingering questions.
  • Close the sale; service; rinse and repeat.

Your ultimate goal:

Imagine an Internet that is uniquely your own. You see only the content that interests you, and you can browse in peace without salespeople getting in your face until the moment you’re ready to buy. After your purchase, you receive automated answers to questions you haven’t even yet asked, and when you visit your vendor’s website for more information or training, forms already include your contact information, as if they’ve been expecting you.

David Diamond (source: Automation vs. You – posted in CMS Wire).

David’s piece is about the oncoming clash on marketing automation making our life easier against the issue of your privacy. It’s a compelling and thought-provoking read.

No matter the size of your business. You can do this and you’ll be glad you did.

A version of this post appears in Beyond the Square Small Business Magazine‘s inaugural edition.