Customer Service vs. Marketing

Customer Service vs. Marketing

Customer Service vs. Marketing

The headline of this article is a trick.

Normally, we think of Customer Service and Marketing as two distinct company functions and departments.

And that’s probably getting a lot of companies into trouble…even if they don’t realize it.

Customer service IS marketing.

How a customer (or prospect) is made to feel while dealing with your customer service team (or chat bot, or phone voice prompts) will determine:

  • If they will buy from you once or ever again
  • If they will recommend you to others
  • If they will trash your company to others (in an instant on social media)

Keeping customers happy then is critical to your marketing efforts, isn’t it?

Yet, most companies remain singularly focused on winning customers…not keeping them.

They focus on marketing to attract leads and convert them into opportunities.

And they focus on sales to convert opportunities into won business.

Why don’t more companies focus on customer service?

If it’s common knowledge that it costs a lot less to keep a customer than to get a new one, why do companies keep spending the bulk of their resources on trying to get new customers, only to neglect those customers once they’ve got them?

THIS SHOULD BE INVERTED.

What got me started on this?

Let me tell you a story about what happened on my birthday a few weeks ago.

There’s a brand new sushi restaurant in my neighborhood. That’s a welcome addition. I thought it would be fun for my wife and me to try it out on my birthday.

Wrong.

They have an interesting menu with two dining choices – à la carte, or all you can eat.

As we sat down at our table, our server explained “the rules”:

  • If you order all you can eat, NO SHARING WITH ANYONE ELSE WHO IS EATING À LA CARTE. IF YOU’RE CAUGHT, YOU’LL BE UPCHARGED.
  • If you order all you can eat but can’t finish everything on your plate, YOU WILL BE UPCHARGED FOR WHATEVER YOU DON’T EAT.

Hmm. I guess there may be practical reasons to have such rules, to prevent the restaurant from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous diners.

But, I would argue that restaurants have just one thing to sell: hospitality.

(Imagine going to a friend’s house for a nice sit-down dinner and being told “the rules” before starting the meal. How hospitable might that feel to you?)

Being presented with “the rules” as our welcome actually felt quite authoritarian to us.

It sent this message, loud and clear: “Welcome to our restaurant. We don’t know you – but we already don’t trust you. So we’re imposing rules in advance on your dining experience, which you must comply with or you’ll be penalized.”

OK, that in itself was off-putting, but we decided to gamely stay and try out the food. My wife got à la carte and I got all you can eat. I also ordered a beer.

I got my first plate of food in about ten minutes. My wife – nothing so far.

I got my beer after waiting twenty minutes. My wife – still nothing so far.

After thirty minutes, my wife excused herself to go to the bathroom. Our server came by to ask “How is everything?” I told her my wife was having to watch me eat while still waiting for her food.

My wife remarked afterward how funny it was that she was required watch me eat and I was not allowed to share any of my food with her, because she was à la carte.

Keep in mind – the restaurant was not that busy that night. It was a Wednesday.

We are never eating there again. We are telling our friends never to eat there. We will be counting the months to see how long they survive.

This is a perfect story for Yelp and Google Reviews (the only thing keeping me from posting there is that I hate leaving negative reviews…but maybe I should in this case).

With just one dining experience, this restaurant has negated any amount of marketing they could throw at us. Multiply that by the number of other patrons who’ve had a similar experience. These guys are essentially spending money to drive people away.

The following night, I took my wife out for Valentine’s Day.

We ate at Crab Hut. We had a delicious seafood meal.

More notably, the server was among the most congenial and attentive we’ve ever experienced. It was night and day from what we’d encountered just the night before. WE LOVE CRAB HUT! And I will sing their praises from the highest rooftops.

That’s FREE marketing folks. For Crab Hut. All because they treated us right. And we’ll definitely be back. Again and again.

Customer service IS marketing.

Those of us who run companies need to start giving customer service the emphasis it’s due.

Not lip service.

The profitability and the viability of our businesses depend on it.

Ron Marcus is the principal of BRANDV I V O™, a brand and marketing consultancy. He’s been helping businesses and nonprofits create and live authentic, successful brands in service of people for thirty years.

Marketing Honestly

Marketing Honestly

Marketing Honestly

Essays about marketing without manipulation, and other blasphemous musings.

Greetings, fellow marketers.

What I am about to espouse may seem like blasphemy to some marketers. If that’s you, feel free to read a more gratuitous article.

I’m here to provide some unvarnished opinion, based on decades of observation, and some plain old common sense.

MARKETING MANIPULATIVELY

An awful lot of marketing these days seems to depend on some sort of psychological manipulation to convince people to buy things.

Take scarcity for instance. As in, you need to buy this RIGHT NOW, because “…an offer like this won’t last very long. See that countdown timer below? When it hits zero, the sale is over, and we will likely never offer a price this low EVER AGAIN.”

Really?

We both know that’s a load of you know what.

Or, offering free “valuable bonuses,” but only if you act right now. This again plays on scarcity. And usually, the bonuses aren’t really all that valuable after all. Except to the marketer trying to manipulate more people to buy now. I love it when marketers arbitrarily assign some value to a bonus, such as “a $297 value…free with your purchase if you buy today.”

Or how about FOMO – “Fear Of Missing Out.” As in, what if you DON’T get this product and never realize the potential the marketer is promising because you passed on this offer? Especially when there are so many testimonials by people who just LOVE what this product did for them, with no reservations. Don’t you want to be part of THAT crowd?

Speaking of testimonials, have you ever seen a marketing web page or promotional email feature a testimonial that was even the slightest bit negative or tentative?

Me neither. You’re only seeing the cherry-picked, partially-quoted, displayed-out-of-context testimonials that might as well have been made up (and in many cases, are).

That’s not to say there aren’t some legitimate testimonials out there. They’re just far less commonly used, because they’re harder to come by legitimately.

MARKETING HONESTLY

Here’s the blasphemy part.

I would like to posit that marketers don’t need to employ ANY of the myriad possible psychologically manipulative tricks that have been scientifically proven to get people to buy stuff they don’t really need.

How about offering genuine value instead?

Seriously, if you have to resort to tricks to get people to buy your product, then how valuable is your product, really?

Is it a product you’d buy yourself?

Did you create it to solve a real need, or to create a business?

A genuinely valuable product, designed to solve a real need for real people, will sell itself.

All you have to do is get people to know about it. That’s it.

You won’t need to give them a hard sales pitch about how their life will be filled with rainbows, unicorns, and unimaginable wealth and freedom, or whatever claptrap so many marketers seem to be selling these days, if only folks buy their products (and all the attendant upgrades and ancillary products being offered too, of course).

BUT WHAT IF THEY JUST DON’T KNOW THEY REALLY NEED YOUR PRODUCT?

Good point.

We didn’t know we needed copy machines…until the copy machine was introduced.

We didn’t know we needed smart phones…until the iPhone was introduced.

We didn’t know we needed the Internet…or selfie-sticks. Or Bluetooth connectivity. Rearview cameras in cars. Social media. Dating websites. Wikipedia. YouTube. Baby monitors. Resealable food storage bags. GPS. Purse hooks in public places. Hand sanitizer. Personal computers. Word processors. Texting. Email. The Dyson Airblade (which actually dries your hands without doubling the time you spend in the restroom).

I’m sure you can come with many more examples.

For a truly groundbreaking product like this, you’ll have to come up with a compelling, REAL demonstration that clearly and truthfully conveys the problem solved and the benefit gained from this unconventional offering.

THAT is what marketing is really all about — effectively articulating VALUE to people who will genuinely benefit from a particular product or service.

Is THAT so hard to do?

THE TAKEAWAY

If you have to resort to trade puffery, hyperbole, stretched truths, fake scarcity, FOMO, disingenuous testimonials, or outright lying to boost your sales, you’re likely trying to sell a product that doesn’t really do much for anyone.

Instead, rethink what you’re selling.

Don’t market products to make money.

Market products to help people.

To serve people. To entertain people. To solve real problems. To eliminate real pain. To genuinely make life easier.

Then, communicate honestly about how this product does what you say it does. Back it up with facts. Show real people using the product. Let people try it out for themselves. Offer a satisfaction guarantee and stick to it.

Don’t apply any sales pressure.

The rest will take care of itself.

P.S. This is the way I prefer to market because I build brands for a living. Brands are built on relationships. Relationships are built on trust. And trust is built on both delivering real value and never trying to manipulate. That’s how you not only gain customers, but keep them. Common sense, right?

Your website: fixed navigation or scroll?

Your website: fixed navigation or scroll?

Your website: fixed navigation or scroll?

Which is better for your website?
Fixed main menu, or scroll off the page?

I was recently working with my favorite WordPress theme, Divi, starting to build a brand new website for a client. I wanted to include a notification bar, also known as a “Hello” bar – that horizontal strip at the top of the page with a call to action and a button. These bars typically ask you to sign up for a newsletter or take advantage of a limited-time offer.

To my dismay, I couldn’t get the notification bar to display properly at all. I tried multiple different plugins to try to enable the bar. No luck.

So I did what we all do. I did a Google search to see if this is a known problem and how to fix it. I tried adding a snippet of CSS code I found in one article. Still no luck.

Then it dawned on me. I had turned on the fixed navigation bar in my theme, where the main menu lives. That means, as you scroll down the web page, the main menu stays fixed at the top of the page, so you always see it, and don’t have to scroll back to the top to get back to it.

This was breaking the notification bar.

I switched off the fixed navigation and voila! The notification bar worked perfectly.

So then I wondered: what am I giving up by losing the fixed navigation bar and main menu? Would this lessen the user experience, and make the site seem less dynamic, less user-friendly, less – modern?

Once again, I Googled. I found an article that told me that some people like the fixed bar, and others don’t. Then I decided to see how the big boys are doing it. So I looked up the sites of some of the biggest brands in the world: Apple. Amazon. IBM. Microsoft. Samsung. Paypal. Starbucks.

Guess what? None of these websites have fixed navigation. You scroll down the page, and the main menu disappears.

Now, I’m betting these companies know a thing or two about user experience and marketing on the Internet. So it stands to reason that you’ve probably got nothing to lose by losing the fixed navigation — and, if you’re working with certain themes in WordPress, you’re gaining the ability to add the “Hello” bar.

Nice.

See you next time in the BRANDVIVO 360˚ blog.

The purpose of brand.

The purpose of brand.

The Purpose of Your Brand

What is “brand?”

It’s a word we use every day, but its meaning can seem a bit amorphous. It’s actually very important to clearly define what brand is, because it’s arguably your most valuable strategic business asset.

Your brand is the reason for buyers to choose your products over your competitors’ – beyond price and utility. Simply put, your brand is doing its job if it makes buying from you emotionally indispensable to your customers.
 

The four jobs of your brand.

Your brand performs four very important functions that a product alone can’t do.
 

The first job of your brand is to make your offering distinct from your competitors’. This means having a memorable:

  • Name
  • Appearance – logos, fonts, colors, design, packaging, and, if brick and mortar, interior design and uniforms
  • Way of communicating – in advertising and in your marketing materials, including your website

The second job of your brand is to help communicate, and deliver, a unique and compelling value promise to customers. This includes:

  • What your offering will do for customers
  • Why your offering will do it better than alternatives
  • How the experience of using your offering will make customers feel
  • How your customers will feel when they interact with you directly

You convey your value promise through your marketing communications and through the user experience you deliver based on:

  • The quality and completeness of your offering
  • The timely delivery of your offering
  • The ease and pleasantness of the buying experience
  • How well you treat your customers before, during and after they purchase from you
  • How consistent all of the above are over time

The third job of your brand is to remove the perception of risk from purchasing your offering.

A finely crafted brand presentation and highly pleasant user experience, from first contact with your logo and communications to the purchase process itself, will give the buyer confidence that choosing your offering will be a positive experience and worth the time and money. Conversely, a poorly constructed brand presentation and buying process will make buyers wonder if your product is just as poorly put together.
 

The fourth job of your brand is to let people know who you are and what you stand for.

These are the reasons beyond product, price and user experience that will compel people to buy from you, stay loyal to you, and be a cheerleader for you. These include:

  • The personality of your company – is it charismatic to your customers?
  • What you are associated with, such as: prestige, luxury, practicality, prudence, lifestyle, community, philanthropy, progressiveness, conservativeness, innovation, consistency, dependability, honesty, caring and social consciousness, the environment, specific socio-cultural values, moral values, ethical values…
    Do you represent and behave in accordance with ways of being, thinking and doing that will endear your customers to you? Could your customers naturally attach part of their identity to their use and endorsement of your offerings – like Harley Davidson owners, for instance? If so, your brand is doing its job.
  • Your story – why you exist, how you came to be, the odds you overcame to get there, and how your offering is more than simply a product, but literally a movement that your customers will naturally want to join. Your customers should feel emotional when they hear your story – and, they should see a little bit of themselves in your story – as with any good story.

To sum up,

Your offering is what you physically provide to your customers. It has certain intrinsic features and benefits. It provides utility to your customers.

Your BRAND is the reason to buy from YOU. It is the thing that, done right, will make your organization and its offerings emotionally indispensable to your customers – even if your competitors have offerings with more utility.

Brand is what keeps your offering from being just a commodity. It’s your secret sauce.
 

The next question to ask yourself:
How does your brand fare?

Are you emotionally indispensable to your customers – or, could they happily switch to one of your competitors tomorrow? Are your customers evangelists for your brand? Or are they completely neutral about you? Are they retelling your awesome story – or do they have foggiest idea who you are?

The way to assess this is with a brand audit. To see what that process looks like, click here.

See you next time in the BRANDVIVO 360˚ blog.

Content Marketing: the promise, and the reality.

Content Marketing: the promise, and the reality.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing: The promise, and the reality.

In this post we’ll examine:

  • The promise of content marketing
  • The reality of content marketing
  • Where to go from here

The Promise of Content Marketing

Much has been written about the awesome power of content marketing – publishing blogs, articles, how-to guides, videos, podcasts and webinars – to help increase your company’s revenue.

By publishing lots of content, you’ll:

  • Have something additional to promote in your search engine marketing
  • Support your SEO efforts to drive more traffic to your website
  • Attract new leads and help move them through the sales funnel to conversion
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader
  • Gain the trust of new prospects
  • Gain even more brand awareness and prospects because your content is shared

That’s the promise anyway. And an entire industry has cropped up around supporting this promise, including:

  • Marketing automation platforms (a.k.a. “inbound marketing” platforms) like HubSpot, Marketo and InfusionSoft
  • Inbound marketing consultants who will set up and run your content marketing campaigns for you
  • Events and trade organizations, such as the Content Marketing Institute, who profit from providing continuing education on how to do content marketing effectively

The promise of content marketing is huge, and, done well, the payback is real. But, the “done well” part is not as easy as the industry would have you think. And done not well, content marketing is at best a waste of your time and resources, and at worst harmful to your brand.

The Reality of Content Marketing

Creating content takes time and resources.

A lot. Don’t fool yourself. If you think you’re busy now, wait until you start trying to come up with great topics and producing content about them on a regular basis.

Creating good content requires hiring good writers.

Whether freelance or employee, the writers you hire must not only have good grammar and style, but also know how to:

  • Hook readers and keep their attention
  • Organize a piece of writing to logically flow from beginning to end
  • Provide relevant and useful information that readers will feel was worth their time – and better still, worth sharing with others

Many who attempt content marketing writing haven’t received the training to be able to do this properly. The result is writing that is flat, meandering, uninteresting and not useful. This reflects poorly on your company’s brand. I can’t overstate this. Poor content defeats the purpose of creating content in the first place – to position yourself as a thought leader and to gain trust.

You’re competing with a ton of content that is just like yours.

“Content marketing” has been a thing for nearly two decades now, enabled by the rise of the internet and then social media. That means a whole lot of people and companies have been producing content for a long time now. In fact, for any given topic, there are likely thousands or even millions of posts that have already been written about it – before you’ve hit the very first keystroke on your new blog.

The next time you publish that great “How to do X…” post, think about how many thousands of other people have published the exact same post on their own sites. Odds are you could do a search right now and in the first couple of pages find at least ten posts that are essentially the very same information. Go ahead and try it…I’ll wait for you.

In order to stand out then, you need to be able to create content that is fresh, original and unique, as well as authoritative – not derivative, “me-too” content for the sake of putting words on a page.

People just don’t have time to read content they’ve already seen many times already.

Spray and pray” doesn’t work.

A lot of content marketers believe it’s all about quantity, not quality.  Spray a ton of content, and pray for great results.

The thinking goes like this: the more you publish, the more pages and keywords you can provide to Google to index, helping your site rise in the search rankings, driving more traffic to your site, and gaining more conversions!

The problem is, nobody likes bad quality content. You might bring people to your site once, but, as soon as they see that your content is useless, they’ll bounce and not come back.

Even Google doesn’t like useless content. Over the years, Google has refined its algorithms to ignore sites with useless content – content that is just a jumble of keywords with no regard for human readability or usefulness. Increasingly, Google prefers exactly what you and I prefer: useful content that is well written.

Self-serving content drives people away and hurts your brand.

Too many companies produce content that looks like a promise of useful information, such as “How to choose the best plumbing company.” only to make the content all about just one company – theirs. This is another form of useless content that will only drive people away. How can you possibly be considered a provider of unbiased, useful information when you publish self-serving content like this?

Where To Go From Here

Content marketing can be a very important, effective part of your marketing mix – if done well. If you’re putting together a content marketing program, here’s how to make it successful.

  • Don’t underestimate the time and resources that will be required. Commit to doing it right and doing it for the long haul – or don’t do it.
  • Take the time to find good writers and producers to create your content.
  • Find unique topics, and your own unique spin on topics, to create content that is truly interesting and useful to your prospects.
  • Don’t make your content sales pitches. Ever. You’ll destroy the credibility of your content. Save that for your regular web pages and marketing collateral.
  • Your content should do these two things: inform and entertain. Notice that “sell” is not one of those two things. After producing a piece of content, step back and examine it with a critical eye. Does it inform, and does it entertain? It doesn’t have to be funny or dramatic to entertain – just interesting. Here’s a good test: would you share this piece of content if it wasn’t yours?
  • If your content is good, promote it! Take to social media, and your legitimate email list, to let the world know that you’ve published a helpful piece of content that people will find informative and entertaining.

One more thing: content marketing is NOT the holy grail.

These days, many marketers seem to think that content marketing IS marketing, period.

Let’s be clear. Content marketing is important – and so are a lot of other marketing strategies, vehicles and tactics, such as brand awareness, traditional advertising, public relations and events – not to mention, providing a great product and great customer service.

Content marketing is but one of the many important supporting players in your entire marketing mix – each playing its part and supporting all the other players. It is not a magic cure-all that can replace the rest of your marketing mix – so don’t buy into all the hype out there that it is. That hype only serves the content marketing industry – not you.

That said, if you’re going to do content marketing (and you should!), don’t let it be the weak link in your marketing chain. Do content marketing the very best way you can.

See you next time in the Brand 360˚ Blog.