Posts Tagged ‘competitive differentiator’

Are you delivering at all stages?

August 17, 2016

Each consumer or client transaction has multiple stages. How is your company doing on delivering at every stage to attract, convert and serve your customers so they are champions for your business?

Below is an overview of a personal experience as a consumer that spanned several months from initial research to purchase to ‘using’ the product purchased. I hope this helps you review your key stages and address gaps that may be adversely affecting the total experience. This company did a great job from start to finish.

Stage 1. Looking to fill a need 

I was the consumer looking for a father’s day gift. Not the typical gift, but something that really was fun, unique and special. Not a gift for my own dad, but for my husband, the great father of our two kids.

I don’t have much time to shop. So I took a little bit of time online to search for ideas and see if anything struck me as a cool gift. I did all my shopping online relying on offers already in my inbox (opt ins) as well as solid SEO tagging as I did various online searches to help find ideas.  As is usually the case, I was in a bit of a time crunch to find something. I was ready to buy and now just needed to find the right thing.

Stage 2. Evaluating the offers.

My husband likes cars. I searched for an experience where he could drive a cool sports car on a race track. I came across some options, but several offers weren’t good enough – they only allowed the person to be a passenger, not to actually drive the car. I dismissed these and kept looking.  I quickly reviewed different options, striking off options as I learned more. Specific factors that affected my decision in addition to driving included location (needed to be in the general vicinity) and the vehicles needed to be cool, quality vehicles. He is a car snob.

Stage 3. The purchase.

I found exactly what I was looking for with Xtreme Experience. The experience included the option to drive the vehicle and they had many cool vehicles to choose from – Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari. The website was informative and the selection options were very clear and easy to choose. They also had brilliantly ‘packaged’ their offer for Father’s Day and had multiple packages from which to choose. The available dates at two different race tracks made scheduling easy and they wisely offered add-ons for their profits and for the consumer’s enjoyment. red lamborghini

My toughest decision was which vehicle to choose as there were so many and I am not a car snob.  I relied on my 19-year olds son’s insight to confirm my choice of the Ferrari 458 Italia. That was my first inclination as my research showed this vehicle seemed in high demand by the time slots so I figured it was a top choice. I made my choices and paid for the experience and printed out the information. After buying a small red sports car Match Box at Target, I had a prop for the father’s day gift.

Stage 4. The full package

I applaud Xtreme Experience in thinking through and delivering on the full package – from providing information easily on its website, developing unique offers with options, sending clear and thorough confirmation emails, providing periodic communication prior to the actual experience (well-timed and not too frequent) and last-minute communications offering other time alternatives due to the risk of storms on the day of the experience. They had detailed the key points affecting a buyer’s experience and had done a great job all the way through to anticipate questions and deliver on the promised experience.

Stage 5. The experience itself.

Two months after the initial on-line research and on-line purchase, Drive Day arrived.  I had not spoken to anyone from this organization. Up until today, everything had been done via their website. This past Sunday we drove to Palmer, MA (we saw parts of MA that we have never seen before) and spent 2+ hours in the car each way to check out Xtreme Experience and see if it would live up to expectations.

My checklist as the passenger and the consumer:

  • Signage:  great; very easy to know where to go.
  • Check-in: very easy; friendly staff; no hassle despite all the forms and waivers to sign including for those of us just watching from the Pit!
  • Amenities: Free cold bottled water provided for all including spectators (perfect as it was 95+ degrees)
  • Organization: very organized; we purchased a time slot; they had the timeframes down pat; everything worked like clockwork.Ferrari 458 Italia sign

In the training, they effectively cross sold my husband to encourage him to be a passenger in the lead car prior to his driving experience so he could see the track and all the 14 or so turns. He agreed (so the company had yet another offer that made sense and that he really enjoyed) and took off first with a seemingly professional driver who gave him a big thrill with his driving prowess.

Then he got his chance to drive and loved it. They delivered on all promises of the offer I had paid for and expected including the T-shirt and video of his actual drive. The vehicle was exactly as marketed and the day went off without a hitch.ferrari car

Two suggestions for Xtreme Experience

  1. Activities – it is a long time waiting as a friend/family member of the driver. It was nice to have a small umbrella and chairs but it would be great to have activities that those of us waiting around could do. Something as simple as a few  corn hole games, food to buy other than out of a machine, mini races with remote control cars…
  2. Survey after the experience. Get feedback. You do a great job but the one stage that I have not experienced is the final loop of sending me a survey as the buyer and asking for the email of the gift recipient to also get their direct feedback.

Great job Xtreme Experience.  Your brand reflects what you deliver and you have done a great job understanding and delivering during every stage of the consumer experience.  Well done!

 

 

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!

 

B to B Marketing: Is your company building a Dream List?

April 13, 2014

Scenario: You are CEO of a B to B business. Your goal is growth (sales and profitability). Your growth strategy is expand existing clients and attract new ones. You need to expand awareness of your products/services in a cost-effective way.

Marketing works the top of the funnel, building the message, creating the awareness and opening doors for sales to then qualify, build relationships, propose solutions and close the deal. A critical asset that a B to B company needs to effectively go to market is a Dream List.

What is a Dream List?
– it is an asset of all company contacts – clients, prospects, suspects, referral sources, partners, competitors.
– it is CRITICAL to organize this information in a useful manner.
– it may be as simple as establishing an Excel spreadsheet or may be part of your company’s ERP software – often referred to as the CRM module. You may use salesforce.com; honestly the actual software is less critical than having an asset that is carefully organized, built and maintained.

A Dream List - A critical element for a strong Marketing Foundation

A Dream List – A critical element for a strong Marketing Foundation

If you don’t have a company asset (aka A Dream List) that represents a usable list that marketing can use to target and prioritize messages to fuel your growth, you are going to struggle with achieving your growth goals. You also run the risk of renting lists and driving costs to acquire new clients. Build an asset that marketing AND sales continue to add to. Over the past 3 years, we built a Dream List for one client from scratch – starting first with consolidating their known contacts. We started with ~400 B to B contacts and have grown that to over 6,000 contacts that is our source for our ongoing marketing efforts. When this client installs their new ERP system this July, we will simply map the fields of our Dream List Excel file to load all this knowledge and all this work to be housed as a central asset.

I am looking forward to the fruits of our labor appearing in pipeline reports where the pipeline can then be sorted by industry, by client type, by source code and by many other fields enabling us as marketers to see the impact we have made on the bottom line and by continuing to build the Dream List adding new contacts daily that come in from our marketing efforts that generate phone and email and web leads. A closed loop marketing effort is a beautiful thing, but a critical marketing foundational element is that unglamorous Dream List that we started building years ago.

By the way, you may wonder why I call it “A Dream List”? Like the Dream Team is your go-to A players, the Dream List is the go-to list for your marketing efforts. It should be your source, your “system of record” of your client base, a centralized repository of your prospects and contacts you have built over the years. Start building.

Use Common Sense People!

November 11, 2013

8 a.m.  The sound of a doorbell enters into my head – huh?  Am I dreaming?  The household is sound asleep after staying up late to cheer on Bama vs. LSU.  Plus it is Sunday morning of a long weekend.  A treasured day to catch up on some sleep.  Then a flurry of activity outside the house – a sound of multiple voices and then the sound of metal ladders being extended…what the heck is going on?!

Our gutters were cleaned yesterday morning.  Yep, Sunday morning starting at 8 a.m.  REALLY?  Who in this company thought this was a good idea?  When do gutters get cleaned by a hired service on a Sunday morning?  For 20 minutes, men ran up and down our roof, right above our heads as we were trying to sleep; talking in normal everyday voices, going about their business like this was completely standard operating procedure.  Unbelievable.

How does this happen?  How do businesses rationalize that this is ok?  Did the owner/president approve this idea that they could get more homes done this Fall by sneaking in a Sunday?  Was 8am considered to be a reasonable time that their services would not be disturbing anybody?  I am full of questions and disbelief that this company actually did this.

There are two main points that particularly strike me:

1. Sunday.  We have lost Sundays to be a day of rest.  What happened to going to church, visiting grandparents, and having a big Sunday dinner?  That is how I grew up.  Now Sunday has become just another day in the weekend to catch up, do errands, get to the grocery store, do laundry.  Kids have birthday parties on Sundays.  Kids sports are played on Sundays.  We are an overscheduled society where Sunday is another day we need and use to conduct business.  It started with malls being open, then banks started marketing their being open to conduct business on Sunday and now basic home services are jumping in too? What the heck! Do I need to specify when home services are retained that they are NOT to come on Sunday? When are we going to fight to get our Sundays back?

2. Common sense.  Who in this gutter service company decided it was absolutely fine to clean our gutters yesterday morning at 8am?  Who gave the green light and on what basis did they think it was fine?  It is not OK on so many levels to deliver this service on a Sunday.  And who rationalized that 8 a.m. seemed like a good idea?

Common sense goes a long way. gertrudestein107878 This company does not appear to have any.  Don’t over think what your business needs to do to be successful.  Try some common sense and think like your customer.  This will serve you and your business well.

As Voltaire rightly said, “Common sense is not so common”.  Use it as a competitive differentiator!  It may just be that simple.

Finally, the most amazing part of all of this?  My 16-year-old son slept through all of the noise and commotion of the men running above his head.  Never heard a thing.  Wow.