Tag Archives: Customer engagement

Taking One For The Team

When was the last time, other than The Super Bowl, that you actively watched an ad? I suspect that you’re like me and you’re actively doing what you can to avoid seeing ads at all costs. You wear out the buttons on the remote or you record your favorite shows and watch them later. You might even have jumped into the camp of those of us who pay not to see ads. We pay Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or all three to watch the content we love in an uninterrupted way. I pay SiriusXM not to hear my favorite music interrupted by product ads (still can’t seem to avoid those promos, although they’re usually appropriate to the content I’m consuming).

Then there is the web, both computer-based and mobile. It makes a NASCAR vehicle seems as uncluttered and virgin as the newly fallen snow. Pop-ups, pop-unders, hidden ads that spew sound from a minimized window, multiple windows popping in succession, far too fast for the consumer to read but quickly enough to record an ad displayed and a marketer charged. It’s a nightmare.

Let me digress. There is one topic we hit hard here in the screed: customer experience. We’ve covered the customer service rep that screws you over, the faulty products delivered without shame or recourse, and the airline that my friends and I call “Air We Don’t Care” (actually our name is a little different and a lot more obscene). We’ve also covered the other side of that – the customer service rep that goes the extra mile and solves your problem beyond your expectations. All of that relates to what is called the user experience in the digital world.

It’s nice to see that there are finally a number of publishers who recognize that a focus on user experience over driving maximum revenue call pay off in the long run. Digiday ran a piece about it, explaining how some brave publishers are overcoming their fear of losing money in favor of cultivating a more loyal audience. It finally dawned on these publishers that people aren’t coming for the ads.

I spent many years selling media. I know that our customer is really the marketer and their agency. However, in order to attract those customers, we need to have viewers and readers that consume our content – a LOT of our content – and keep coming back for more. Improving the user experience makes that happen even if it might cause a temporary drop in page views, ads displayed, and revenue. Heck, when even the NFL is recognizing that they have to reformat their games to speed them up and make the ads less intrusive (a better user experience!), all other content providers need to take notice.

Is the sales department taking one for the team as the editorial group improves the user experience? Probably in the short term, yes. But in a world where ad-blockers, remote controls, DVR’s, and streaming rule, it’s a smart sacrifice in my eyes. You?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

It’s A Secret

This Foodie Friday, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. OK, so maybe it’s not really that far under the radar, but our topic today is the hidden menu many places have. Some places call it the secret menu, and you’ve probably heard of some of them. In-N-Out Burger‘s is fairly famous in burger-eating circles, so much so that I’m not sure one can call it secret any longer. Arby‘s has one (let’s go climb Meat Mountain!), as does Starbucks, highlighted recently by the Unicorn Frappuccino (yes, but they’re a healthy 56 grams of sugar!). I could list a dozen more chains that have them but the real secret menu is at your local favorite.

English: The menu of a typical kebab shop in L...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I frequent a restaurant that changes the menu seasonally. They’re happy, however, to make me one of my favorite burgers that hasn’t been offered for six months. Its availability is a secret of sorts, and I feel special when they oblige my request for it. That’s really the point of these hidden menus. Putting aside that the more outrageous items become fodder for social media amplification, it’s really about “knowing.” It’s the feeling like you’re a special member of the family and that’s the point for any business.

Turning customers into loyal customers is about care and feeding. It’s about making them feel like Norm from Cheers: everyone knows your name and welcomes you with open arms. Being in the know about the secret menu – getting something about which others know nothing – is something that any business can do. Maybe it’s a simple as a secret sale, maybe it’s a special item of food or clothing or merchandise that’s available only upon requests. No matter what it is, it represents wrapping the customer in your business and fostering community.

I don’t know if you have a special place with a secret menu that you frequent but you might think about making your business that sort of destination for your fans. You with me?

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints

How To Stay Engaged With Your Consumers

OK, so you buy into my thinking on the need to stay engaged with your customers and potential customers in a meaningful way. Now what? That’s a question my clients and I face all the time so let me share a few things we’ve done to promote that engagement. Feel free to borrow!

The first and most obvious thing you can do is to support listening via social media channels. If you haven’t set up a listening dashboard, I’d make that a top priority. Hootsuite is a good place to start, and it can also be useful in populating those channels with content. There are plenty of other tools out there for listening, but listening and responding when appropriate is what we’re after.

Part of what we’re after is to become a friendly subject matter expert in the eyes of consumers. There are plenty of channels in which to do so, but what’s important is that you not try to be in every single one. Unless you have a support staff of a dozen people, you’re going to have to pick the channel that is most meaningful to your customers and focus your efforts there. My guess is that it will be Twitter since it’s the most interactive.

Next would be a decision about some longer form content. This might be on your own website, a blog, maybe a post on LinkedIn or Medium. Try them all and see which drives traffic and engagement. Remember, there is no garbage can on the Internet so whatever you write for one platform is probably reusable on another.

What do you write about? Start with thinking about how many questions do customers ask you in a week. The answers to each one of those questions can serve as the basis for a post. Unless you’re a masochist like me, you needn’t write every day either. A couple of times a week is a lot for most folks. Write about your customers. Featuring a long-time purchaser rewards them and shows all the others that you’re grateful. Explain a common problem your customers have and how you’re solving it for them.

Ask yourself how you keep in touch with your best friends. Don’t treat consumers any differently and you’ll be on the road to a productive, engaged relationship. Make sense?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

You Always Hurt The One You Love

There is an old song made famous by The Mills Brothers. The first two lines are:

You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all

Today’s screed is the unbelievable tale of a media entity that is doing just that. Why unbelievable? Because if I asked you to tell me the absolute dumbest thing any company could do you just might respond with exactly what this company is doing. Let me explain.

The Walking Dead is AMC’s (and maybe TV‘s) biggest show. Not unexpectedly, there are many fan groups that interact via social media. One of the biggest – about 400,000 strong – is a Facebook group called “The Spoiling Dead Fans.” As you might guess from the name, part of what the group does is to make predictions about what will occur in upcoming episodes, and lately, it’s about who was killed by a barbed wire coated baseball bat (named Lucille). These fans, as you might guess, would be classified as “hard-core.” They watch the show, the discuss the show, they pick apart every episode for clues. In short – they’re what every media entity wants: engaged, excited consumers.

So how has AMC rewarded these loyal fans? In their words:

In the past two years, AMC has filed several wrongful DMCA notices against us with full knowledge that we could not file counter-notices, hired investigators to intimidate our members, and threatened our local members with arrest, among other questionable acts.

Yep. They’re threatening to sue them. AMC believes “the predictions on the board are based on copyright protected, trade secret information about the most critical plot information in the unreleased next season of The Walking Dead”. If you’re not shaking your head about now, you should be. It’s not as if the fans have released footage or are torrenting purloined episodes. All they’re doing is keeping the show top of mind while it’s off the air between seasons. Is suing them for that really the best response?

If you’re over the age of 30, you’re old enough to remember when the music industry spent a lot of time and money suing consumers rather than using those resources to come up with a better business model (Steve Jobs did that for them). I think that alienation persists to this day.

I can’t imagine any instance where suing your best customers – hurting the ones who you shouldn’t hurt at all – is the best solution to a problem. Frankly, I’m not even sure that in this case there even is a problem. You?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

Retention And Acquisition

Where do you come out on the retention vs. acquisition question? What I mean is do you think it’s more of an imperative to keep your current customers happy (retention) or to keep filling the revenue pipeline with new customers (acquisition)? A study from the Forbes Insights folks says that: 

42% of respondents said that expanding their customer base was an important strategic priority for their company. And, nearly one-third of executives worldwide said that retaining their existing customer base was a priority.

This is from a study called “Mastering Revenue Lifecycle Management: Customer Engagement Leads to Competitive Advantage,” which talks about a systemic approach to maximizing revenue throughout the lifetime of the customer relationship. On the surface, this struck me as strange since I’ve always felt it was more cost effective and easier to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The Ipsos folks say that I’m off base – the whole “it costs 5x more to find a new customer” is a myth.

Maybe it has to do with how “old” a company is.  The study found that more than 70 percent of respondents from mature companies believe that enhancing customer loyalty is their organization’s primary goal, as opposed 39 percent of less mature companies.  That would make sense since one would expect that the longer a company has been in business, the larger a customer base it has.

Maybe I’m just partial to the “fewer but deeper” relationships thinking, but I fall into the retention school with respect to priorities.  Let me repeat the question with which we began: where do you come out on the retention vs. acquisition question?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud