Warning: Are You Accidentally Shattering Your Brand Continuity?

thinkstockphotos-527901068-convertedAt its core, brand continuity is the idea that all communication channels between your brand and your customers (live chat, email, phone calls, etc.) should all look and feel like they’re coming from the same place. It’s the idea that you should strive to give your customers an experience that is as consistent as possible, regardless of how they choose to make contact with you. Successful brand continuity requires you to strike a delicate balance, and if you’re not careful, there are a few ways that you can accidentally shatter all that you’ve worked so hard to build even before you realize you have a problem.

It’s All in the Visuals

One of the more subtle ways to build and maintain brand continuity is also one of the most important, mainly because it can be the easiest to get wrong. You have to make sure that all of your branding from the version of your company logo to things as seemingly insignificant as the font you use are as consistent as possible, regardless of which element of your online and offline presence you’re using. If a version of your company logo is present on your website’s “Help Desk” page, it should be the same version of the logo sent out in your latest email or print marketing materials. Don’t use professional-looking fonts on your website if you’re going to be using Comic Sans MS on your print materials.

You may initially think that this is incredibly easy to miss and in many respects, you’re right. Customers aren’t necessarily paying attention to every last visual element on a page versus a flyer versus a billboard. But, think about it this way: the ones that do notice may be put-off or at least find it odd, which is a feeling you do not want to invoke. Those that don’t notice will still benefit from your strict brand continuity, even if subconsciously.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

Another way that you can accidentally shatter brand continuity has to do with getting everyone on the same page regarding how your business works. If your website is very clear about one particular policy but your customer service team isn’t, you’re immediately confusing customers every time they pick up the phone. This confusion is especially evident regarding promotions. If an email goes out offering a new sale, you’d better make sure that anyone who answers the phones for your business knows about it and knows what it entails. Otherwise, your customers may get a disappointing experience when it feels like the left hand is unaware of what the right hand is doing, so to speak. It gives the impression that the different parts of your business are operating independently of one another, which is something you don’t want to communicate to prospective buyers.

These are just a couple of ways that you can accidentally harm your brand continuity. Remember, you can never be 100% sure how someone is going to make contact with your business, especially for the first time. So, make sure however they encounter you, it’s equally easy, enjoyable, and helpful.

Advertisements

Out of the Mouths of Babes

thinkstockphotos-547540180Customer service is sometimes the part of the job that we dread due to the range of customer complaints that ensue. However, if we look at customer service as an opportunity, we can create a lot of positive energy from it. While not all stories are as entertaining as this one, the fact that the customer service response became a boon for the company is evident.

Giraffe Bread

Lily Robinson, 3 and 1/2 years old, wanted to know why the Tiger Bread from Sainsbury’s (a British convenience store) wasn’t called Giraffe Bread. After all, it looked like giraffe skin. She wrote a letter to Sainsbury’s and her mother mailed it to their customer service department. (https://www.helpscout.net/10-customer-service-stories/)

In an incredible customer service response, Chris King, 27 and 1/3 years old, responded to Lily with another letter and a gift card. That response in itself would have been an incredible customer service moment, but the story continues.

Sainsbury’s decided to change the name of the bread to Giraffe Bread and created signage explaining the story. Lily’s mom was so impressed that she wrote about the story on her blog. (https://jamandgiraffes.com/2011/06/15/our-careline/) The story then got picked up by BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-16812545) and became a marketing tale that has returned goodwill to Sainsbury’s many times more than what the first gesture from Chris King cost them. While this return doesn’t happen every time you offer excellent customer service, your actions and response to customer complaints are opportunities to cement relationships with customers. Often, it is the customer service assistance that creates the most indelible mark in a customer’s memory.

Customer Service as an Opportunity

There are many similar instances that companies never find out about that affect their bottom line. Not every customer calls or writes to a company because of a good or bad customer service experience. However, they may tell all of their friends about it. Positive or negative, word of mouth goes far and can create a bundle of good or bad press for a company.

Because most of us are dealing with automated phone systems and customer service reps that speak other languages and barely know English, a lot us have become numb to the massive amount of poor customer service. When we do come across good customer service, sometimes it is a shock to our system. We crave good customer service, and most people will return and refer others to any company that treats them well.

Examples of good customer service opportunities abound:

*The mechanic that takes the time to explain what is wrong and why it needs to be fixed, but won’t fix anything that is unnecessary.
*The patio furniture sales person who brings out a ladder to get the last display model from the ceiling-high display shelf.
*The jeweler who walks the customer through the options of repair for their cherished, but cheap, pearl necklace.

These types of customer service experiences are appreciated by the customer and remembered.

By treating every customer service issue as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a customer, you can build the loyalty that every business needs. Loyal customers are your bread and butter, the customers who pay your monthly bills month in and month out.
Being a small business can give you more of these opportunities because you know your customers personally, so use these moments as a chance to shine.

What Are These New Facebook Reactions and What Do They Mean for My Business?

thinkstockphotos-515786505A few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg treated his staff to a movie night. The film…Pixar’s Inside Out. The Facebook staff watched in confused amazement wondering who these emotions were and more importantly, where is the big, blue and white like-button thumb? A few individuals voiced what everyone else was thinking…wouldn’t it be swell if Facebook allowed people to have more than one possible emotional reaction to the things they see and read?

A legendary hack-a-thon ensued, spanning an entire month. The result? We now have the choice to not just like something, but to LOVE something, laugh at something, or express shock, sadness and anger. To express our new emotions, all we have to do is hover over the traditional blue and white thumb and six new emojis emerge. For mobile users, simply hold down the thumb and your new emojis will appear.

From a social standpoint, we are all feeling liberated at our ability to express more than one emotion without the necessity of typing out a complete thought. But what does this mean for businesses and people marketing on Facebook? Quite a bit actually…

Aside from the obvious point that you can now identify and quantify how many people feel about your post, there are some handy things you can now do as a business owner that may give you an upper hand with your competition. Because these emotional responses are public, you can do some recon work and check out how people are reacting to your competitors’ content as well. Based on your gathered intel, you can now customize your content to better reflect what people are interested in.

This new functionality can also enable you to get more bang for your buck while advertising on Facebook. If you go to your Insights page on Facebook, you can access data on people’s reactions to each post. If one or more posts are engaging more individuals or are loved by more individuals, you can choose to boost that post for a fee. This takes the guesswork out of deciding where to spend your advertising dollars.

We are all well aware of the reality that it’s just not realistic that you’re going to “like” every post that makes it into your feed because sooner or later the content will be about some atrocity that’s being committed that you want to stop. So, instead of liking the post, you, like most people, just keep scrolling. It’s not that the post was not engaging, it’s just that people don’t want to “like” the content. With the new reactions, people can express sadness or anger at the content of the post, letting them know that it was read and stirred some emotion. The upside for your business is that you can post more meaningful content about issues that are important to them and not worry about losing points for attention because all of the reactions count as “likes” on your page.

People love to go negative on social media if they feel they’re not being heard. The reaction emojis can now help you avoid negative comments in your feed if something is not going quite right with your company. Have you ever had one of those days when your server goes down or your payment processing company is having issues? It can really derail your day and cause some ruffled feathers with your customers. ┬áNext time this happens, try pinning a post to the top of your page explaining the situation and perhaps offering a discount to anyone who was inconvenienced by the event. Ask them to show some love to your company by clicking the heart emoji and watch a potentially negative experience turn into an opportunity to engage in a positive way with your customers.

As these reactions catch on, you can be sure more creative ideas will begin to flow on using them to benefit your company. You may even try holding a competition for a free giveaway while also showing people how to use the new reaction emojis. Ask people to show some love in exchange for a free product or service that you offer. Not only will you boost your likes, you will also make people loyal fans. Get creative and have fun. After all, it’s what the new emojis are all about.

Sensitivity to People’s Needs

thinkstockphotos-122408117Doing business involves a product or service and a buyer and seller. In large part, it also involves the formation of relationships. The fact that some of them are quite temporary does not diminish the importance of these buyer-seller relationships. The objective, of course, is to limit the number of temporary relationships and increase those that are ongoing. Repeat customers are intrinsically valuable for the success of a business.

Naturally, these relationships should be as positive as possible. To do this effectively, you need to be sensitive to the needs and desires of the individual. Never forget that your customers are, first and foremost, individuals with personal needs.

In years past, some companies dealt only sporadically, if at all, with this issue, trusting fully in their products to supply what the customer needed. But, the relative success and failure of many such businesses have proven this outmoded attitude to be counter-productive.

Indeed, an entire industry has grown up around the concept of customer relationship management (CRM). Today, software is available from many sources. This software can make it far easier to manage all customer contacts, enhancing the relationship to the utmost, producing greater sales through better communication. However, it still comes down to the one-on-one relationship and your awareness in general, as well as specific customer needs.

Customer Satisfaction

As has always been the case, a successful appreciation for the needs of your customers is driven by sensitivity–treating people as people rather than simply as customers. Since a business’ customer contacts are most frequently engaged in by employees rather than management, a company’s employees and their training are of paramount importance in achieving better customer interaction.

A company is in a far better position for growth when its employees are made aware that their overall performance will be judged by their customer interaction–the levels of satisfaction those clients have achieved. After all, customer satisfaction is the most effective means of achieving customer retention, a far more efficient way to increase sales than continually reaching out only for new customers.

One key element in developing satisfied customers is to ensure that they deal with satisfied employees who present a positive picture of the company. A satisfied employee is a valuable tool. This is especially true when your employees are dealing with customer complaints. When a customer is most upset about something is when your employee’s “soft skills” are the most critical. Soft skills involve the ability to address customer complaints with politeness and de-escalation of the client’s emotional responses.

This brings to mind the movie, The Negotiator, where Samuel L. Jackson’s character tells another negotiator, “Never say ‘no’ to a hostage taker.” He then tricks the other guy into saying no several times, each time castigating him for his ineptitude. As humorous as this scene is, it also highlights the importance of a skillful use of words and an awareness for the needs of your counterpart in conversation. While your employee is not going to cause someone’s death, he just might cause a lost sale. Making certain that every client conversation concludes with a positive perception can result not only in short term sales but also in a greater number of positive stories being shared among new potential customers.

With businesses becoming ever more international in scope, many organizations are increasingly investing in staff training to enhance cultural sensitivity. Cultural, political, religious, and linguistic differences do exist as potential barriers, and learning to navigate this new international landscape is an important ingredient for future growth.

Never underestimate the power of positive relationships. Sensitivity to customer needs is key to a better public perception of your business.

How to Create a Successful Marketing Event for Your Business

If you truly want to draw attention to your business and potentially attract a whole new variety of customers, there are few better ways to accomplish this than with a great marketing event. Regardless of the type of industry that you’re in, a marketing event is a great way to get a hold of some people who wouldn’t normally have your business on their radar. To accomplish this, however, you need to keep a few key things in mind.

Go Beyond the Sale

One of the most important things to remember about a successful marketing event is that you need to give people an experience that is truly worth leaving their homes for. Getting a person to open up your direct mail material is one thing – after all, you’ve sent it directly to them and they don’t even have to get in the car in order to open it. Getting them to come to your physical location, possibly for the first time, is something else entirely.

Consider a marketing event that a bookstore might have. Instead of just holding a blowout sale (as a customer can typically find similar prices online if they look hard enough), a bookstore might hold a signing with a famous author. Suddenly, you’ve given those people a reason to actually come into the store, especially if the author isn’t one who makes local appearances very often.

Once all of these people are in your store, then you can hit them with sales and other promotions in an attempt to increase revenue. Simply offering discounted prices should never be the most enticing thing about the event that you’re throwing, as most people won’t find it a good enough reason to attend in the first place.

Set a Goal

Another one of the biggest things to remember when creating a successful marketing event is what it is that you’re trying to accomplish in the first place. Are you looking for a way to increase existing customer satisfaction and give back by way of a memorable experience? Or are you looking for a way to reach an entirely new market? The goal that you set at the outset will dictate every choice that you make thereafter.

Give Yourself a Way to Capture Contact Information

As with all marketing techniques, one of the major goals of a marketing event is to capture leads. After all, even if you’re just looking for a fun and exciting way to give back to your existing customer base, the chances are high that one or two of them might bring some friends along with them.

To truly take advantage of a marketing event, make sure that you’re giving yourself a built-in opportunity to capture contact information in the most efficient way possible. Even if it’s something as simple as giving people a chance to win fun door prizes if they fill out a contact information survey, you’ll need something to use when the event is over to keep in touch with all of the new people that you’ve attracted.

These are just a few of the tips that you can use to create a memorable and successful marketing event for your business that people won’t want to miss. If you continue to hold these events on a regular basis, you will have a great chance of reaching people who you may not have otherwise been able to get to without them.

What Mom and Pop Shops Can Teach Us About Customers and Relationships

Before the age of major chain stores, most towns and cities across the country were served by small “mom and pop” shops. These stores are nothing like the enormous stores found in many places today. Instead, they tended to have a more specialized purpose. These small businesses served people for generations, and many of them were excellent at building relationships with their customers.

The importance of building relationships with customers remains incredibly important, no matter what your company’s size may be. To help you successfully accomplish this, let’s take a look back at what helped those old mom and pop shops stay in business and thrive.

They put the “service” in customer service.

Successful mom-and-pop shop operators really knew how to serve their customers. They paid attention to the people, asked questions about what they sought, and helped them find what they were looking for.

In modern commerce, this translates to establishing your website and business practices to make things as easy as possible for your customers. People shouldn’t have to struggle to find products or contact information on your website. When they call you, they should be put in touch with someone who can actually help them right away.

They knew their customers.

Shops of old knew those who patronized their establishment. They knew them by name and knew their regular purchases.

While this might not be possible (depending on your company’s size), focus on personalizing the experience whenever possible. Create marketing materials that use the customer’s name and company and segment email lists to reflect customer behavior. People are more likely to pay attention and take advantage of offers when they can see how the offer applies to them.

They understood their customers’ needs.

The business leaders of old understood what customers wanted when they came into their establishment. They lived in the community and knew the people. They understood trends and needs. This allowed them to create a business that met those needs and was an important part of the town.

With the advent of online commerce, the communities served by a business (even a small one) might easily stretch across several states, if not across the country or around the world. Even so, it’s still important to speak with your customers whenever possible, and use data and market research to learn what your customers want. Surveys and conversations with regular customers can offer tremendous insight. Track the spending habits of your customers and see how different customer personas are leveraging your products and services. Market research about your industry can also add much needed information to the equation. Combining these different tactics can create a very good picture of what your customers seek, allowing you and your business to meet those needs and exceed customers’ expectations.

Creating a successful business today means building relationships with customers and meeting their needs. In years past, it was the mom and pop shops who had mastered this skill. To learn how to improve your relationship with your customers, you can look to these examples for a few lessons.

The Unseen Lessons Our Teachers Taught Us

When first exploring the power of buyer personas, it’s natural to worry about the extra work and effort needed to complete the process. Fortunately, these fears are not unjustified. While it’s true you’ll need to have an intimate understanding of potential customers and what they seek from brands like yours, the investment is completely worth it and can lead to tremendous growth for your company. Here’s why…

Consider for a moment your high school history teacher. In schools across the country, history teachers teach multiple classes with students at all different levels. One class might be filled with students who are ready to break down the information at a very high level. These students are capable of exploring difficult themes. Learning about the American Revolutionary War requires covering more than dates and names, and they will dive into motivations and outside influences.

Another class might be at a more introductory level of history. Rather than covering motivations, they might need to learn more about the major people who influenced the events of the day and focus on learning the timeline.

Both classes are covering the same topic, but if the teacher is going to effectively teach both groups, he or she will have to develop separate lesson plans for each class. If the teacher tried to create a common lesson plan for each group of students, neither group would receive the instruction they needed to succeed. It does require more work for the teacher to create separate lesson plans, but the teacher knows it’s worth the effort. A teacher who keeps their eyes on the end goal — to ensure that both classes walk away feeling challenged and with new knowledge about the founding of the United States — will know their extra work helped them reach their students effectively.

The Takeaway for Marketers

The same concept applies to marketers. It does take a little more work to create separate content for each of your buyer personas, but if you want to effectively reach your potential customers, you have to be willing to go that extra mile.

Each of your customers comes to your site looking for different information. One customer might be concerned about finding an affordable solution to their problem. They feel as though they’ve spent too much money in the past, and their primary concern is budget. Another customer might focus primarily on utility. They trust that when they find a well-created solution to their problem, their return on investment will justify their cost. Each of these customers will respond better to different types of content and offers. Creating just one type of content will make it harder for you to reach all of your intended target audiences. It may have been less work upfront, but it will end up costing you more when you fail to bring in the profits and returns you had desired.

In a world where time is money, it makes sense to avoid spending unnecessary time and money whenever possible. What you need to remember, though, is that while efficiency is important, it cannot replace doing something correctly. Sit down with your team, outline your buyer personas, and draft a plan for reaching each one. You’ll be amazed at what these additional steps can do to help you close more business.

If you’re ready to start building a new marketing strategy, reach out and speak with us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.