Posts Tagged ‘brand’

Beware of Loose Ends – they can unravel a brand

September 28, 2016

Loose ends – some are so important that ignoring them could ruin the fabric of your company – really.

dreamstime_xs_21493776-yarn-unravelling

There are endless ways a loose end can present itself in your business. The key is to not discount it as minor before you really know.

Most loose ends come from failing to completely close the loop in the first place. Ask yourself, how well is your team doing in closing loops?

Expectations of a close loop:

  • Closing a loop in business is like closing the door at home.
  • Did your mom ever say to you – “did you grow up in a barn?”  when you ran out and left the door ajar vs. closing it completely as they had asked?  Mine did. My point being, to completely close a loop in your business, you need to tie off the two loose ends for a tight knot.  Just like closing the door – close it to hear it click – not ajar – Shut.  Closed. Tight.
  • If the knot is not made, the loop is not closed. The analogy is that your customers are literally falling out of that opening and likely will NEVER return to your business. The loose ends are causing problems and you need to make sure you have the people and processes in place to identify the loose ends and get them tight in a knot that stays tight.

Let’s take a common situation that may occur in your business.  A customer complaint is received. How would your company handle a similar situation to one a client experienced this past week?

  • Scenario:  Customer complaint is submitted via unique email address that we (marketing) monitor regularly. We forward the email to the appropriate senior manager for him to review, investigate and address. Senior manager email response comes back to marketing and the CEO indicating no record found of what customer is complaining about.  Period. End of communication.

Is that really the end to the scenario? Is the loop closed or open?  The loose ends are not closed and if no further action is taken, this simple example has a high likelihood of becoming a significant issue.

If we (marketing) did not step in from there and take the ball, there would have been no proactive ownership taken to address the obvious loose end here…communicating back to the customer.  The loop was not closed at all. In fact the customer complaint from a very loyal customer was going to become more of an issue if we left the loop open and let the loose end dangle.

Let’s fast forward a few days or weeks to IF the above was literally the end:  Over time, the unhappy customer realizes his complaint is being ignored (from their perspective). It is likely and in today’s world, quitre reasonable, to expect the customer would be frustrated and sign on to Facebook, Yelp, Google+ and potentially other sites to share his story and frustration. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of consumers see the complaint and now have a negative view of the brand. The brand is damaged and whatever brilliant marketing we execute reaching these folks, the damage has been done.

The Actual Scenario to Close the Loop:

The actual scenario ended as follows:  Marketing saw the senior manager’s response of having no record of the issue. Marketing wrote a response to the customer that same day to apologize, empathize and share action that had been taken (by marketing and the CEO) to ensure the issue was addressed AND also investigated other potential root causes that could have caused the scenario to happen. Later that same evening, the customer replied to my email and thanked me for the attention and response.

Without closing the loop completely, loose ends appear. Initial little threads get pulled and grow to bigger issues. Before you know it you have a ball of thread that is one big mess.  Think of that as your brand.

6 Tips to Avoid Your Brand Unraveling Due to Loose Ends:

  1. Follow up. Don’t assume the loop was closed. If you have any doubts across your company, get the right manager on it or check on how it was solved.  For many of our clients, we (marketing) assume ownership, take the lead and follow up with others to ensure the loop was closed especially when it comes to customers. We (marketing) tie off the loose ends into one tight knot.
  2. Don’t assume. Don’t assume the scenario was an anomaly.  Confirm it was one. You will sleep better at night.
  3. Get to the root cause. Don’t accept on-the-surface answers in your business. (e.g., no record found; I don’t know; not my job; I think that so and so handled it).  It may take time and resources. Are you sending signals to quickly move onto the next fire or put this one out first?
  4. Be a detective – Ask questions, encourage your team to ask questions.  When mysteries aren’t solved, they will likely appear in some other, but similar form.
  5. Look for patterns. (pun intended given the thread/fabric analogies woven throughout this blog). Are you seeing a pattern that hints there is a bigger issue? A great way to identify patterns is to keep track of issues/situations and talk about them with your team. Patterns will emerge. If you are constantly playing whack-a-mole in your business, there are likely issues that need to be solved at the root cause.
  6. Hire people who are committed to customer service. A longer term solution (granted) but it starts with a mentality.  Do you surround yourself with people committed to solving problems and doing the right thing?  One suggestion to help you hire people with the right mindset:  during the interview process provide the candidate with a written scenario that reflects a tough, unhappy customer situation that could (or did) happen in your business.  Have the candidate describe how they would address the situation.  Listen carefully for word choice and tone. Ask yourself, are they empathetic, caring, and professional? Or do they use a tone and words that raise concerns? This can be an effective way to identify the appropriate mindset to serving customers as well as indications of if they are problem solvers by indicating how they investigate the root cause.

If we had viewed our role only as get the customer complaint to the proper manager to handle, the above scenario had the potential to be a MAJOR issue for the brand. There would be NO customer follow up, no acknowledgement of his issue.  In this scenario closing the loop completely required two levels of closure:

  1. Internally.  Investigating the cause and solving the problem at the root cause. Two internal systems were checked with no record of the complaint; 1 important external system was not checked. The initial manager response was incomplete. More digging was needed.
  2. From the customer perspective. Letting them know their complaint was heard, addressed and apologizing for the inconvenience.

Doing one without the other leaves a loose end somewhere. Some loose ends are harmless.  Others have the potential to do big harm and unwind all the good will, charity, and brand building that you have done for years.

Be on the lookout for loose ends in your business and tie them together to achieve a tight closed loop.

 

Choose your words carefully

May 27, 2016

chess move strategy

One of my favorite parts of marketing is developing the brand through the careful selection of words.  I am a nerd. I readily admit that and am totally comfortable with that label.

This past month has been great spending strategic time on words. We made considerable progress for one of our clients in further development of the company’s messaging, positioning and terminology. In the past month we announced a new product and all the various efforts of preparing for that launch led to pages of notes, questions, and points of clarification. Additionally, and true for any small, rapidly growing company, the message naturally evolves over time. Two of us on the For Marketing Matters team led the charge to document standards to solidify and clarify positioning, messaging and word choice. Over the course of two meetings with the CEO we honed in on specific word selection to discuss, confirm and document standards including examples and explanations for the word selection. This document is a tremendous resource for our marketing team, but also for the company as a whole. The sessions with the CEO resulted in further clarity and alignment to the point the CEO requested the asset be included in the board package for this week’s meeting.

Why words matter (and how you could benefit from this same effort):

  1. Alignment.  How aligned is your team? For this client, the management team is geographically dispersed across the globe working at a rapid pace. This poses a real challenge for broader, strategic discussions to occur across the management team on a regular basis. We literally kept a running list of inconsistencies and questions to bring the challenge to light while developing press releases, sales tool kit materials, web content, technical specifications and sales presentations. As engineering was finalizing the product, operations was selecting final exterior finishes and sales was building the pipeline and the risks of mixed messages was high. Everyone had the right intent, but it felt like herding cats.
  2. Ownership. Words should not be casually selected with little to no grasp of the implication it can have. Example.  I was on a call reviewing a PowerPoint presentation and an idea was casually raised wondering if we should edit a bullet n the PowerPoint to describe the product as a “smart device”. I literally almost dropped the phone. Huh? This is not a casual edit to then move onto the next bullet. This type of descriptor needs to be thought through in terms of the implications to the product positioning and to the market and target buyers. If you are a CEO, ownership of messaging and the resulting choice of words needs to be made clear – this is not to be casually edited by anyone in the organization to decide they want to jump on the bandwagon of ‘smart devices’ or ‘Made in the USA’.
  3. Clarity. Literally don’t leave it up to chance. Don’t assume other employees are on the same page. Get it in writing and then distribute it – especially valuable if key personnel are geographically dispersed and don’t have the benefit of being in the same office, picking up important tidbits throughout the day.
  4. Scale. Just like the old telephone game played at many a sleepover as a kid, the message gets distorted with every person added to the chain. If scaling your organization is a priority to achieve your growth goals, don’t ignore the critical role that words have in enabling your company to scale. Capture the words you want employees to use; capture the words you want customers/clients/prospects to hear and understand. Use this asset as part of your on boarding plan.

focus definition in dictionary

 

Some tips to help you build, expand and manage this asset:

Ground rules:

First, it is important to recognize and embrace that this asset is never done.  It is a working document and marketing should own it. If you don’t have senior marketing expertise on your team, you need to. They don’t need to be fulltime, but you still need the expertise.

Second, this is not distributed for review and comment!  The danger of everyone in the company feeling they have a voice in weighing in on word choice is not realistic nor recommended. Marketing owns messaging. Marketing is not part of everyone’s job description. Working closely with the CEO is critical, but the reality is that others in the organization are most likely not well-suited for the nuances of word choice and let’s face it we all have our view of the world (remember those old posters where Boston would dominate the Globe, or New York etc.?)

What to include in establishing messaging, positioning and terminology standards:

Messaging – should include company-level and product level. Include the elevator pitch.

Terminology – document the terminology that is critical to your value proposition. Use examples of how the terms are to be used and what terms should never be used.  Example – for this client, the product is NEVER referenced as a ‘device’.  If this makes your head hurt, secure the right expertise to facilitate this investment – it will deliver a ROI if implemented correctly across the organization. No doubt.

Trademarks and registered trademarks – from a branding perspective, develop standards of how TM and R will be used. Again, consistency and clarity builds the brand. Don’t leave this to others in the organization to know how to handle. Document it and distribute across the organization.

Let’s face it most small, entrepreneurial companies don’t have a lot of overhead. They are nimble organizations. Many have not secured an outsourced marketing department like For Marketing Matters to develop and manage such assets to enable scaling of the brand and the organization. The reality is we can’t review every manual, document, proposal, client report that goes out the door for this client. We can build standards and manage the brand as part of the team and ultimately serve as the internal police to protect the brand.

So what words matter for your company?

As CEO, do you cringe when a team member uses a certain word that you never want used? Do you have a visceral reaction when a client is referred to as a customer or serving a customer is described as ‘dealing with the customer’? If your word choice is not clear internally, how can you possibly be well-understood by the market?

Watch this great Inc. video of how Dermalogica focused on words to build their brand.

The nerd in me celebrates the progress made in establishing standards in terminology this past month.  It feels great and paves the way for scale, efficiency, clarity and consistency.  The ROI is unquestionable.

 

 

 

CEOs: 4 things you can learn from Twitter

January 29, 2016

checklistAs a CEO/President of a small to medium-sized business, learning from Twitter may be way down your list of ways to manage and improve your business.  But, take note as there are several key take-aways from their actions this week.  In case you missed it, Twitter was prominent in the news with four top executives leaving the company and as covered by many publications including, The Wall Street Journal article,  it was announced by Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey that he hired its first CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).

So what can you learn from Twitter?

  1. Don’t wait for a ‘growth rut’ as Twitter did before securing the marketing talent and leadership needed to fuel your business.
  2. Make sure marketing has a seat at your leadership table. This is Twitter’s first Chief Marketing Officer! Until now, senior marketers at Twitter as described in the WSJ article, bounced around like a ping-pong ball reporting through various other departments including Finance (yikes).   The new CMO of Twitter, Leslie Berland, formerly with American Express, reports directly to the CEO.  As she should.
  3. Marketing is a critical function for any business. It is not a function that you only need when you are a certain size. It is not something you can assign (like a task or project) to another person and hope they can acquire the expertise and skill.  It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses punt when it comes to marketing. Reminds me of the recent Allstate Mayhem DIY ads.  If awareness, credibility, and lead generation are part of your goals, you need marketing expertise.  You may not need a CMO, but you need marketing expertise. Your company may not need a full-time team or even a full-time hire. Rent expertise via an agency model or maybe a combination of both makes sense. Twitter realized they needed senior leadership in the marketing function. Evaluate what you need and make the right investment in talent to reach your goals.
  4. Take action. Stop thinking about it. Put a plan in place and act. Twitter has many holes in its organization right now, but they filled a key one. 11 months left in 2016. What are you waiting for?

You may not have any time in your busy day for Twitter as a CEO of a small to mid-sized company. Can’t imagine how Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey manages his day given he also is CEO of Square.

The Role of a Printer in Maintaining Brand Identity

October 16, 2015

I often refer to myself as the Brand Police. As the marketing team for our clients, we build brand identity and consistently work to maintain a clear and strong brand identity. Personally, my role includes defining brand standards and enforcing the standards; revising client-created materials to ensure the logo, fonts, colors, messaging are all correct and on-brand. I also eat my own dog food when it comes to building and maintaining the brand of For Marketing Matters (FMM).  Although, at times it is more akin to the cobbler’s kids not having shoes! The harsh reality is clients’ needs come first, always.

HP 8610 printer

The role of the printer in maintaining the FMM brand:

One point of differentiation from our competitors is our commitment to accountability and measurable impact.  An advisor of a FMM client  once commented that FMM was more accountable than other members of the management team who are employees. One way we consistently demonstrate our accountability and results-orientation to our clients is in weekly meetings reviewing goals, metrics and activities, all part of an integrated, phased marketing plan. These reports are clearly branded as FMM documents with statuses of Done, In Progress or Not Started  color coded in the FMM colors of blue, green and white. Except recently the printed reports appeared to be more appropriate for a baby store with pale blue and pink tones. Uggh. I triple checked ink levels, performed the printer diagnostics and resigned myself to the fact that the trusty HP printer was on its last leg.  Add that to the ‘to do’ list.

Honestly, I dreaded buying a new printer.  I hoped to choose the best printer for our needs, then get it set up, with a goal of not losing more than  2-3 hours of productivity to get back to decent quality client reports. A cynical view perhaps, but that was my outlook. I bit the bullet on Monday and headed to Staples. Brand loyalty helped me narrow the field quickly by only looking at the HP All in One Printers and advice from our IT support company helped me focus on two models. My decision was made easier when a gentleman came by to check the ink required for the printer I was leaning towards getting. I asked him about it. He shared he had three in his office and they worked great. He highly recommended it and I was sold. With $100 savings, I headed to the check out line while still dreading the set up and expecting the rest of my Columbus Day to be spent getting the darn thing operational.

Thank you HP. The set up was very easy complete with easy prompts and clear, useful written instructions (a surprise) and the wireless printer was set up, connected to the network and working, printing reports in the FMM blue and green in no time! I was very proud of myself, thrilled to be back on brand and very satisfied to have purchased another HP printer.  As a client commented to me when I shared my experience, no one gets fired for buying an HP printer! Our clients are happy to have properly branded, easy to read FMM reports again, no longer having to figure out what pale pink represents!  Looking for a solid all in one printer? My vote is the HP Officejet Pro 8610. For Marketing Matters is back on brand and that feels good.

Can your brand make this impact?

September 3, 2014

I am in awe of the Market Basket brand and the impact this brand has had on so many lives, especially in the past several months.  I boycotted the store and closely watched the events unfurl.  There was rarely an interaction over these past weeks that did not include a reference to the Market Basket saga.

This past weekend I went back.  I debated as time was tight (isn’t it always?) and I have no patience for making two stops to get what I need.  I decided I would give Market Basket a chance and see how if they had any produce and dairy.  Wow!  I was wow’d.  I am a consumer who is not easily wow’d, but I was smiling as I approached the doors.  Signs in the windows  – “Thank you” and “Welcome Home” – really nice choosing home over back.  The friendly voice over the intercom reinforced the welcome and more kind words of thanks.  Employees had smiles; you could feel the positive vibe.  The bakery team was handing out free snacks (note to my trainer – I DID not take any).  I started shopping in produce and was not just surprised, but amazed at the full bins and all the fresh produce.  It was Sunday of a long weekend.  Truckers, warehouse teams and the store staff were busting their butts to get this store back to normal.  As I shopped, a man spoke to me and shared his excitement for the store being back, for being able to shop again at a store he loved and commenting on how the produce was back.  There really was an energy and an excitement that was heartwarming.  It is not uncommon for me to speak to people I don’t know (ask my kids), but chatting with the shopper near you seemed normal, healthy and part of the process we had all been through as collective Market Basket shoppers.  I was having fun, actually enjoying this.  Reminder, this is grocery shopping people!  One of the most mundane weekly chores on my list.  How the heck has Market Basket turned grocery shopping into an experience?

The marketer in me can’t help myself.  This brand is amazing!  People walked off their jobs to support Artie T.  They risked the stability of their lives – their jobs and their income to support their leader.  They love the brand – the store, the family atmosphere and what they stand for.  They organized shopping carts in the parking lot to form his initials.  Local establishments delivered pizza to the workers.  We as customers boycotted the stores and went elsewhere to pay more and get less. Local farmers lost business.  People on fixed incomes suffered. People on bus routes suffered. Then the news broke that a deal had been reached and Artie T was back.  There was palpable excitement, relief and joy.  Full page ads in the Boston Globe including suppliers welcoming Market Basket back.  Reminder, this is a grocery store chain. AMAZING.

So what is it?  As I say to my clients, what is the secret sauce? This is more than JUST low prices.  There are plenty of discount, low price companies that have never attained this brand status.  There is not this level of affinity, brand equity, love, and loyalty attributed to a brand like this and certainly not in this same category.  This is uncommon, unique and yes, remarkable.  A neighbor of mine was self-described as being ‘sad’ over the risk of Market Basket going away.  Another friend expressed concern – what if they sell to Hannaford? It was MORE than just the low prices.  It was the secret sauce.

My grocery shopping over Labor Day weekend was an experience.  Managers stocking shelves, smiling and thanking you.  Helping me try to find an item on my list and then sincerely apologizing to me because they did not yet have it n stock.  I smiled and said “No problem at all.  I am glad you guys are back and I completely understand.”   People were so nice, so warm and friendly.  In a sea of mostly strangers, there was a sense of belonging, of being one, of the power of standing for something that is good. I can’t pinpoint all the ingredients of this secret sauce, but I am in awe.  I train client’s employees on the brand and on the message.  I am in awe of this number of employees being in sync, being on message and clearly and consistently representing the brand.  As the cashier said to me as we chatted during checkout, ‘we look forward to the movie’ and with her big wide smile thanked me for coming back.  That is a movie I will see.  I also look forward to reading the business case as clearly this is one story we can all continue to learn from.

 

Can you be reliable?

July 21, 2014

Do you know what your customers want from your business?  This company does.

We are in a ‘this old house’ phase where every major item seems to be breaking, decaying or rotting.  The most recent replacement expense was the fence.  The original, came-with-the-house, white picket fence was long overdue to be replaced.  It was staying up on a prayer.  Fast forward from the quote phase to the installation phase and what does Reliable Fence have?  A very happy customer who wants to share their experience with the world.  Contractors have a reputation for being horrible about follow up and follow through.  When I have an experience that ‘wows’ I need to share.

reliable fence

So, why am I blogging about Reliable Fence?  Frankly, as a marketer, I am not impressed with many businesses.  Their brand is weak, their logo is not legible, there is no thought on color scheme, their customer service is lousy, their phone systems is equivalent to voice mail hell…the list goes on and on.  So many business owners don’t get “it” , they dabble, they cut corners and ultimately they leave a bad impression.  I am impressed when a firm gets it and I feel part of my marketing evangelist role in life is to spread the good news of companies that I recommend because they do the important things well.

Reliable Fence is my latest example.  First reason:  Marketing 101.  They put a sign up in our yard prior to doing the work to market their business to all runners, walkers and neighbors.  Smart.  Yep, basic, but smart.  Do you know how many companies assume our little cul de sac is not worth putting up a sign?  Silly assumption.  They should see how many people walk and run and bike and our homes are all the same age so HELLO?  They likely will need your service too!  Ok…back to Reliable Fence.

Second reason for a shout out to Reliable Fence.  Material delivery phase.  Pretty basic stuff, right? What could go wrong at this simple stage?  Well, let’s see, have you ever had a business unload something right in front of one of your garage doors for days?  Or directly on the lawn to kill the lawn or in a flower bed?  Not with this company.  The lead guy came to the door, introduced himself (basic, but often does not happen), remembered my name, reviewed the job with me and asked great clarifying questions.  He was friendly, professional, and focused.  He confirmed where he could leave all the materials and confirmed the timing of the job and their expected duration.  He and his partner unloaded all the materials and I could immediately tell they were organized by area and out of the way from causing any harm or hassle.  Nice.

Third reason for shout out to Reliable Fence:  They were neat and thorough.  They used our garden hose to wash off the fence sections as they got them done.  At the end of the day, they put the hose back where they found it.  They picked up all their trash as they worked.  Yes, really.

Final reason for shout out to Reliable Fence:  they worked really hard and never complained.  They had to move 4 granite posts into place and there was no close access for them to drive the posts to the needed location.  These posts were heavy (so I am told!).  My husband came up with a solution using our lawn tractor and a neighbor’s tractor trailer to save their backs.  They were so appreciative!  This work was hard and it was hot.  It was Friday afternoon in the summer and they were grinding it out.  They could have cut out on a Friday and said they would be back on Monday to finish the job. (sound familiar?)  Nope, they stayed until after 7pm on a Friday night and the two guys lived in Western MA – they had a long drive ahead of them and never complained.  They did not cut any corners to start their weekend.  Instead they reviewed the finished work with me, patiently reviewing the gates and keys and never indicating that they needed to get out of Dodge and start the weekend.

Have I mentioned the fence?  No, because at the end of the day my expectations were that the fence would be what we had contracted for.  The fence is their product, but the reality is HOW they did the job was more important to me than the baseline expectation of having a new fence installed that would be properly installed to last for years and look good.

Marketing Message for today:  learn from Reliable Fence.  I expected their fence to be reliable.  That was not the ‘wow’ factor.  I was pleasantly surprised with the professionalism of the team and the manner in how they conduct business.  Kudos to you, Reliable Fence.  I can see why you have been in business for over 50 years.  May others learn from you how to deliver on what is most important to their customer vs. delivering just what was contracted for.  Thanks for great service and a great fence.

 

When Packaging is Not Enough

July 8, 2014

These days, more and more people are carefully reading product packaging,  Packaging can be a powerful marketing tool to speak to your target audience.  I admit this is not my area of expertise as I primarily focus on B to B marketing and thrive on marketing services and complex products. But as a consumer, I value and appreciate the importance of packaging and that is why I am compelled to write about such an odd topic that could get downright dirty and nasty quickly.

Reading the packaging

Now, are you curious?!

I have been buying the same brand of toilet paper for years.  Remember the ads:  “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin”?!  I was sold on this brand and like many things in my life as a consumer, I am a loyal customer.  It makes decision-making easy and certainly makes grocery shopping as efficient as I can be.  If I like a brand, I stick with it.  Perhaps I would buy Cottonelle once in a while, but any good analyst would quickly realize that softness was a key feature of the brand that I purchased in this product category.

Not anymore.  I am done with Charmin.  Good bye Cottonelle.  Why you may ask?  Because, during a Sunday night service call, a drain guy digging up our front yard to solve a septic tank issue informed us that Charmin is bad. We should be using Scott!  Huh?  I had no idea.

The marketer in me immediately thought of why has this message not reached me and other folks living with a septic system?  We have lived in this home and been on septic for 14 years and I never knew this was a product differentiator?  Where have I been?  So, today, I went to the grocery store in between meetings and honestly, went down the toilet paper aisle with a curiosity that is not only weird, but very marketing-nerdy as I could not wait to see if the packaging of Scott toilet paper included messaging about its unique features.  Sure enough – a ‘septic safe’ message right on the package!

But, hold on! Marketers that messaging on the package is not enough!  Until today, I NEVER looked at the Scott’s packaging before because I do not look at ANY other brand of toilet paper in the whole aisle. The small ‘septic safe’ would have gone totally un-noticed as I went down this aisle with blinders on. Unless I had seen an ad or read an article about its benefits of being ‘septic safe’, I never would have known until this tatted guy casually solved our issue by telling us what I wish I had known 14 years ago – buy Scott.

Since Sunday evening, my mind has been thinking about all kinds of ways this message could be better shared to target home owners using septic, but I need to move on to focus on my clients and their needs.  However, there is a marketing lesson here and I am noodling it around in my head to remind myself of the broader opportunity this story highlights:  as marketers we have to think how best to reach our ideal target audience and convey the unique differentiators of our products and services in a way that matters to them and in a way that actually reaches them.  In this case, the packaging appears to be reinforcing a benefit to consumers already buying the product.  Without knowing for sure, I expect this product category has a fairly high brand loyalty.

Thanks Drain Man for informing me and saving me from future annoying and potentially expensive septic issues.  He is an influencer in my purchasing behavior and this loyal customer has switched brands to the one he recommended.

As I conclude, I have to say I am surprised to write such a blog and not even have one potty talk reference. Is that called maturity? Great Scott!

 

The Marketing Power of Signs

February 14, 2014

Good signs create brand awareness. Many business owners can improve their marketing efforts simply by investing in quality signage.
Two examples to share with you today:

Example #1: A missed opportunity

Creative use of an ambulance!  No signage.

Creative use of an ambulance! No signage.

Points for creativity are earned by this roofer who uses an ambulance for transporting roofing materials and ladders. Unfortunately the creativity stopped there and the obvious opportunity to have some fun with branding and signage fell through the cracks. After doing good work, there was no request to put a sign in our yard to promote his roofing services in our neighborhood where all homes were built around the same time and are likely in need a new roof, too. A missed opportunity to leave business cards for us to share. The owner clearly did not know he was doing the roof of a marketer! I did not even know his company’s name when someone asked me for a reference. Missed opportunity. A sign would have created at least one lead if not more. What is that worth to the owner?

Example #2: Signs lead to Connections and Charity Involvement
Contrast the above example of a missed opportunity with the power of effective signs. I am on the board for Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity and we are in the midst of planning for the June Home Builder’s Blitz when two homes will be built in 6 days! In a recent meeting, it was brought up that we needed a few more building companies to commit to the cause. I immediately thought of local builders’ that I knew of and suggested that the lead builder reach out to Steeplechase Builders as I had seen their signs in many places. Fast forward, Steeplechase Builders was thrilled to be contacted as they were looking for charity to get involved in and this was a perfect fit. This week I met the two principals of Steeplechase Builders and shared with them the story of how their signs led to their being part of this great effort. These business owners are smart: they regularly invest in their signs and leverage their existing customers to be a solid referral source. It is likely their involvement in Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity will increase the visibility of Steeplechase Builders and it is my hope that this leads to continued growth for these business owners who are committed to giving back. See what a sign can do!

Is Anyone’s Customer Service WOWing you this Christmas?

December 13, 2013

Tis the season…to be wowed by fabulous customer service.  Are you feeling the love?

happy-customer

I do a lot of shopping online for Christmas.  I find it easy, efficient and productive.  This year?  not so much.  Cyber Monday was a disappointment for me due to a variety of bad online experiences.  I understand if I was shopping on December 20th, but promoting products that aren’t available early in the shopping season is frustrating and does damage to the brand.

Here are my bad brand experiences to date followed by my one wow experience so far:

1. Negative – Timberland.  Their top sellers are out of stock yet they promote 30-40% off online.  The reality is you can’t get the product you want in any ‘normal’ sizes.  Who planned their inventory for the holiday season?

2. Negative – Vineyard Vines.  This brand has taken off like a rocket, yet their inventory was wiped out very early – I am talking November.  Their catalog arrived and immediately I checked on some items and there was limited to no availability by color, size and item.  Bummer.

3. Negative – Carbon 2 Cobalt.  I like their styles and last year had great luck with this store and ordering online last Christmas.  This year?  Not so much.  I found a sweater I wanted to buy for my nephew, went to the site, searched for the item number – nothing.  No message.  Searched by name – nothing.  Searched by product type – Men’s Sweaters.  The sweater I wanted to order was the featured image on the landing page – perfect I think!  There it is – now I just need to order it.  That was the problem.  The sweater is nowhere to be found on the website.  Huh?  No one thought to have a message appear that the product is sold out, out of stock, something?  I left the site and they lost my business.

Being a glass half full person, I kept on shopping online, determined to find something I liked.  I started to do a search to address my frustration with BOTH Vineyard Vines and Carbon 2 Cobalt and I found the online Bloomingdales website with available product for me to order.  Not only did I find items I liked, they had sizes in stock!  Bonanza!  As I started my order for 3 nephews, I noticed a promotion to get an additional 10% off by signing up for emails.  Perfect.  The 10% represented a decent savings so I signed up, received my text alert that I was enrolled…but then there was no promo code to complete my online order.  Bummer.  I picked up the phone and called customer support as chat was not available at the time.  (Odd as chat should be available late afternoon during Christmas don’t you think?)  Anyway, my wow moment was about to happen so back to the point.  The customer service person was great – friendly, empathetic, and resourceful.  I explained I did not get a promo code for the additional 10% off my order.  She explained that that code would not be sent for 1-3 days (no where on the website) and she apologized for that not being clear.  She offered to give me 15% off my order and placed the order for me to ensure it went through and the discount was applied.  WOW!  She exceeded my high expectations.  Kudos to Bloomingdales for doing what no one else has done this holiday season.  I got great deals and had a wow experience.

Let me know what business is wowing you this Christmas season.  I want to know!