Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About: Creative Use of Social Media

THE SITUATION: You know that your customers and prospects are talking about your company in various social media channels. But are you being proactive and developing content that will engage them through relevant communications and humor?
The Marketing Opportunity: connecting with customersEngaging customers and prospects effectively will result in increased trust, brand equity, goodwill, and revenue. And the good news is that it's easier to do than you may think!
Engaging via social media channels is now not only a basic marketing responsibility ... it's also where some of the greatest opportunities lie. Consider this extremely creative April Fools sunglass promotion, which hinged on effective monitoring of Twitter discussions.
The Idea: Fashion accessory e-retailer OneClickVentures.com decided to move beyond the stale "the joke is on us -- look at these low prices" pitches that others use to drive April Fools promotions. It chose to focus on something that would tell consumers more about the personality of its brands.
The firm crafted a suite of playful fake ads for three surreal new products and promotions. An offer of a free tiny dog with each purchase of a handbag big enough to hold it was the focus of one ad; a pair of sunglasses that turned moonlight into privately visible sunlight appeared in another. The third ad, which looked more plausible than it sounds, had images of models showing off a new line of invisible reading glasses.
The Execution: The messages lead to a page which informed the recipients of the subterfuge, thanked them for being good sports about the joke, and invited them to look at some of the (actual) products on sale. The OneClickVentures team carefully checked all the links and tested the e-mail messages on a small group of insiders. The company sent the messages off on the morning of April 1 to a targeted audience of "subscribers who typically receive promotional emails.”
This was a carefully planned, multi-tiered monitoring campaign. One tier involved direct engagement with Twitter users employing phrases like "free puppy" or "invisible readers," or just the name of the online store. Twitter's search function made it easy to locate the discussions and jump in. (A typical company remark: "It's all in good fun, though, right?")
dog in a bagThe Results: Customers loved the promotion. One tweeted: "Who can be mad at a puppy in a handbag?" And, they purchased products.
Results from the OneClickVentures.com case study:
Handbag Heaven – April Fools’ compared to Average Campaign:
+42% Open Rate
+60% Click Rate
+43% Revenue increase
These numbers speak for themselves ... about the importance of identifying where and how customers are speaking about your brand!
Conduct regular searches on the terms customers are most likely to use that relate to your company, your brands, and your promotions.
Join the conversation. Two great (and free!) places to start are the Twitter search bar and the extremely simple setup page for Google Alerts.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Introduce Customer Centric Thinking into Your Organization

THE SITUATION: When discussing customer centricity, I often hear questions like: “Why in this tough economy, should we invest time or resources chasing some elusive new customer centricity initiatives, when we have so many other priorities? What's the payoff?" Marketers and executives at all levels face this kind of skepticism and resistance.
Making the Bottom-Line Case for Change: Recently, the senior vice president of a client company delivered an eloquent, and instructive, response to this challenge. Based on recent Voice of Customer (VOC) call center repsresearch, management had learned that their customer service reps were perceived as technically competent, but not very easy or pleasant to work with. This was alienating a critical segment of their customer base.
The senior vice president not only made the decision to invest in creating a new VOC-based Customer Centric Training, but he also employed three critical best practices for helping the customer service reps embrace the new, customer-centric way of doing business.
Best Practice #1: Focus on the Metrics. The attendees at the first Customer Centric Training probably thought they were in for another (boring) round of "soft skills" training, with no direct connection to anything anyone would actually hold them accountable for after the training. How wrong they were!
The SVP informed them that the company had an obligation to deliver the highest possible return on investment per customer, by increasing lifetime value. He then explained that a critical factor in achieving these goals was to improve the team's phone-based relationship skills, and then use those skills to achieve far deeper engagement with customers, as determined by the VOC research findings.
With the full support of the CEO and President, he focused the Customer-Centric Training around customer lifetime value goals and introduced ROI performance goals for the reps to achieve after they completed the training.
The message was clear; Customer-Centricity goes straight to the bottom line.
Performance indicators include: customer satisfaction, increased purchases, increased lifetime value, and reduced attrition. The SVP stated that this was a message he personally wanted to deliver to the customer service reps. And, he explained, he would be personally monitoring these results indicators and expected to see a dramatic increase!
Training ClassBest Practice #2: Emphasize Personal Responsibility. The SVP concluded his remarks by assuring the team members that the training was vitally important, not only to their own careers, but to the future of the company. He instructed them to bear in mind that everyone in the company had a fiscal responsibility to ensure that the training was successful ... and that it would be fiscally irresponsible to do otherwise. The team got the message!
Best Practice #3: Executive Leadership and Visibility is Essential. The visible participation of senior execs was critical in communicating management’s commitment to the Customer-Centric change process. The SVP and President attended the opening session and delivered passionate remarks in support of the Customer-Centricity culture change process. The fact that they made time to attend the opening of the training made an impact on the reps. The SVP was visible for the remainder of the 2-day training.
Communicate to all levels of your organization that Customer-Centricity is an essential culture change process, especially in these tough times, and that results go straight to the bottom-line.
Empower employees to demonstrate customer-centric behaviors and to provide their own recommendations for how to improve the customer experience.
Emphasize that the impact of customer-centricity is measurable, and that all members of the organization will be measured on their individual contributions to customer satisfaction, increased purchases, increased lifetime value, and reduced attrition.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Double Dip Recession? Not If You Listen to Customers

THE SITUATION: The US government avoided default by the skin of its teeth ... but instead of stability, we have a first-in-history downgrade of the nation's credit rating and world-wide financial turmoil.

THE OPPORTUNITY FOR MARKETERS: Is it possible that good margins, robust market share, and growth are possible, even in the current market environment? Industry leaders I work with think the answer is "YES”. They have learned lessons about today's markets ... from direct interviews with their own customers.

Three Essential Marketing Takeaways: The consumer landscape has changed in some important and, I believe, The Ideal Customerpermanent ways since the first of our two recessions kicked in in 2008. Although specifics vary by company, three principles of Customer-Centricity can apply broadly to all major industry sectors.

Permanent Market Change #1: Attrition matters. The pre-2008 complacency about whether customers defect to the competition, or stop buying altogether, is no longer acceptable. "Plenty of fish in the sea" may be a good maxim for dating, but not for marketing. Indifference is not a viable starting point for today's relationships between seller and buyer.

Respect is mandatory; it starts with truly caring whether the customer sticks around, and today's economy-savvy, Internet-savvy, social-media savvy consumer knows that. What's more, market leaders have developed a new respect for the high cost of replacing a disaffected customer, and as a result, they do not stop asking themselves, "What can we do to improve the customer experience ... and reduce attrition?" See this blog post for some insights on how the legendary merchandiser QVC did this.

Listen to the customer

Permanent Market Change #2: Consumers expect to be listened to via their own preferred channels and media. They are far more outspoken and explicit about their preferences, and they want to share specific preferences such as: how they define a value added relationship, how they wish to be communicated with, and what mix of media they wish to use to engage with companies.

As a result, today's market leaders are building their relationship marketing strategies around the rich feedback about multichannel preferences they receive directly from consumers. See this article for an overview of how Customer-Centric market leaders have achieved double-digit revenue increases by following this approach.

Permanent Market Change #3: Consumers expect true personalization in exchange for providing personal preference information. They want to be able to determine the content, messages and offers they receive, based on their unique personal preferences, and they want to have a clear sense of what custom-tailored value they will receive in exchange for sharing this information.

If you establish a powerful value proposition that justifies what I call a Reciprocity of Value Equation, consumers will provide you with invaluable opt-in information regarding their message, offer, and media preferences. This information becomes the core of a uniquely powerful preference-driven database ... which will drive double-digit increases in response and revenue. This case study shows exactly how Microsoft did this.


Learn how your customers define a compelling Reciprocal Value Exchange with your company. Understand how they want to deepen their relationships and what type of information they would provide in exchange for specific value added information and offers.

Do not attempt to launch this type of high engagement program without guidance from the voice of your customers!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Four Lessons About the Power of Twitter from the Debt Ceiling Drama

THE SITUATION: Twitter played an important role in helping move Congress to finally pass the debt ceiling legislation.

A Beautiful Setting

THE MARKETING TAKEAWAYS: At several points over the past few weeks, the President called a press conference to repeat points that he had already made many times before. Why did he bother?
Because each of these press conferences included a direct appeal to voters to email, call, and tweet the members of Congress who represented them.

Obama repeated those appeals on his Twitter account, which boasts nine million followers. And each time he did that, Congressional offices were swamped with constituent communications in support of the President. Marketers should be curious about how the President pulled this off.

Whether we agree with his handling of the debt ceiling standoff or not, we have to admit that Obama and his team know how to use Twitter. Multiple mainstream media sources (1: Federal Computer Week) (2: The Register) have acknowledged the effectiveness of the White House's use of this powerful medium, and a few (3: Media Matters For America) even seem to suggest that it might have been one of the turning points in resolving the crisis.

Obama used Twitter to mobilize his base of contacts and issue calls to action that people quickly obeyed. Here are four best practices, straight from the Oval Office.

Ernan Roman inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame. To learn more, please click here.


The difference between treating people like a record on a database and treating them like valued customers or supporters, lies in keeping them updated on the issues that affect them. Obama's team did this, regularly keeping millions of followers up to date about the latest developments in the crisis, and explaining what needed to happen to resolve it.


Building the Emotional Equity

The bigger the story got, the more interested Obama's core base of Twitter followers became in updates and other messages from the White House. Obama's team saw this need, and positioned the White House as an alternate news stream on the story. Keep this in mind as you consider the power of relevant communications.


Twitter is all about speed and immediacy. If you are going to be effective in this space, you need to post new material regularly. Obama's team certainly did this, offering dozens of posts a day. Is it wise for your organization to try to hit that level, no matter what? Probably not. But you should get Voice of Customer feedback regarding the frequency and content of the messages customers and followers want to receive from your organization.


This is a huge part of good Twitter etiquette. In fact, it's almost an end in itself. It was impossible not to notice how often the President used Twitter to thank his followers over the past few weeks. Here, he thanks them personally at the end of the crisis, via a special video link embedded in a tweet.

Thank people for following you on Twitter. Thank them for mentioning you. Thank them for anything you can credibly thank them for.


To support your brand and build an engaged base of motivated followers, do these four things on Twitter ... whatever your politics happen to be.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Build Positive Emotional Equity with Customer Care

The Situation:
Every business has the potential to subject customers to an occasional "oops" moment ... but some businesses are better equipped to recover from those mishaps than others.
A Beautiful SettingRecently, a client with offices in a remote section of Canada asked me to help with some strategy planning. They kindly put me up in a charming little inn by a secluded lake. The setting couldn't have been more beautiful.
But... there were a number of service-related issues that I found aggravating.
Among these problems: no shampoo or soap in the shower, (only discoverable while one was actually in the shower, thanks to the wall-mounted squeeze-bottle dispensers favored by the innkeeper), no air conditioning to dispel the heat and humidity ... and a temperamental Internet connection that left me cut off from the outside world, unless I went to the conference room and set up my lap top on the ping-pong table.
Normally, problems like these would have lit my fuse and launched me on a mission to track down the innkeeper and have a little chat about service quality expectations.
But I didn't have that chat. So, I started to think about why I had not complained.
I realized what a great job the management of that inn had done in “insuring” itself against “oops” moments like the ones I had experienced with the missing soap and the unreliable wireless connections. That customer insurance policy took the form of superb service interactions with all the staff at the inn.
Ernan Roman inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame. To learn more, please click here.
For instance: One evening, after I noticed the sign informing guests that breakfast was not served until 8:30 am, I asked the staff to prepare something I could take with me as left early the next morning, for my client meeting. They not only had breakfast waiting for me, but they also asked if I wanted to take a seat in the dining room, which was still being set up, and relax as I ate.
During breakfast, I happened to compliment the chef on his excellent fresh gooseberry muffins. He said thanks and proactively offered to prepare an early breakfast the next day.
Building the Emotional EquityWhen I arrived for breakfast the following day, the chef came out with a bowl of fresh gooseberries he had prepared based on my comments the prior day.
These were just a few of perhaps a dozen great face-to-face interactions with the staff during my 3 day stay at that little inn.
Management had trained every staff member, from the chef to the gardener, to deliver consistently exceptional service. As a result, every interaction built positive emotional equity with me.
Those positive “deposits” in the “bank” of emotional experience not only built up my sense of satisfaction with the place, but they also made it much easier for me to overlook the occasional “oops” moments.
The more complex your business, the more likely you are to inadvertently deliver an “oops” moment to a customer.
In fact, “oops” moments are pretty much inevitable. You can’t eliminate all of them. The question is, how good are you at compensating for them by making regular deposits in the emotional bank accounts of your customers?
Ask yourself and your management team:
How much emotional equity are we building up during every single interaction with customers? How easy are we making it for our customers to look past the occasional mishap ... and look forward to interacting with us again?