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Tom Smith

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What kind of Customer Experience are you providing?

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Nov, 10, 2016 @ 08:11 AM

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According to Gartner, 64% of people say customer experience (#CX) is more important than price in their choice of a brand.

According to American Express customers are willing to pay 17% more for a good customer experience.

Forrester found that 80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service. However, only 8% of people think these same companies deliver customer service worthy of a superior rating.

What kind of customer experience are you providing? Have you asked your customers? Have you asked your employees? Engaged customer-facing employees have a better idea of the customer experience than non-customer facing employees. Disengaged employees don't care.

How do your customers define an acceptable, unacceptable, and outstanding customer experience? Ask them. That's the only way you'll ever know. 

Talk to your customers to let them know you care about what they think. They'll be amazed that you care about them as individuals.

Recognize employees who provide an outstanding customer experience so other employees will know what you value - beyond revenue.

If you address a customer's concern, they're more likely to stay with you than a customer who never complains.

Save a customer time, make their life easier and you'll earn a customer for life - and probably reduce your marketing budget.

 

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Tags: CX

Are You Easy To Do Business With?

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jul, 13, 2016 @ 09:07 AM

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Have you asked your customers this question?

First, what do you think they'll say?

Now, ask them. You'll be surprised what you learn.

Customers are looking for products and services to make their lives simpler, easier, and save them time.

Show the consumer that you understand their needs, put them first and you'll have a customer for life. Do not assume all customers want the same thing. Have a 360-degree view of the customer for all your employees so everyone in your company can let your customers know you're concerned with their needs and wants and committed to providing them with a great customer experience.

Providng a great customer experience and earning customers for life needs to be a core value. If it's not you'll just be driven by this month's sales goals. If you put your customers first, sales will take care of themselves and the time and money you spend on marketing will go down because your customers will do your marketing for you by becoming advocates and sharing with their friends and colleagues how easy you make it for them.

Please be clear when I say "provide a great customer experience" that this isn't that hard. It's meeting customers' basic expectations. It's easy because so few companies are doing it. Ultimately this will be how your company can differentiate itself from the competition. However, it does require a change in attitude and focus.

Remove the distractions (a.k.a. "friction") for your employees and customers. Employees want to make customers happy. Happy employees make happy customers. Engaged and empowered employees have passion, pride, and confidence in their ability to provide a great customer experience and customers call tell it.

Think about the companies you go to on a regular basis that make it easy for you to do business with them. They've likely earned your loyalty, gratitude, and repeat business.

What can you and your employees do to make it easier for your customers to do business with you? Ask them.

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Tags: customers for life, customer satisfaction, customer engagement

Integrated Marketing Is More Important Than Ever

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jul, 11, 2016 @ 08:07 AM

 

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When I started in marketing and advertising years ago, I learned the importance of integrated marketing - ensure there's consistency of message across TV, radio, print, direct mail and out-of-home. Today, integration is more important than ever given the addition of web, social, email, mobile, and SEO/SEM.

Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency builds confusion and distrust.

Given the number of channels across which our messaging is disseminated, it's easy for marketing communications campaigns to fail.

  1. Message are fragmented, or incongruent, across media channels.
  2. There's little to no strategic planning, let alone messaging planning.
  3. The campaign process is slow, or non-existent, and uncoordinated.
  4. Companies are unprepared to share information across the organization (i.e. silos) and the information is frequently inconsistent.
  5. There's a lack of transparency and cross-channel communication.
  6. There's no on-going dialog across the organization, sharing insights, how the customer interacted with tthe communications, what worked and what didn't.

Integrated marketing today menas collecting all customer information from all channels and integrating it to provide a 360-degree view of the customer so you can meet their needs and wants without asking them to tell you what they've already told someone else in your company.

Incorporating all online and offline data provides you the opportunity to personalize your communications with customers and ensuring you are providing information of value that's relevant to them and where they arein the buying cycle. You can answer the customer's question before they ask it. You will save them time and become easier to do business with, thereby earning their trust.

More knowledge, greater segmentation, more consistent and relevant will lead to more conversions in shorter sales cycles.

In addition, tracking the customer experience (CX) after the sale, across multiple touch points, enables your to build an ongoing relationship with the customer and gives you a better opportunity to create a "customer for life" rather than a single sales event.

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Tags: customers for life, customer experience, consistent messaging, integrated marketing

A Great CRM Is Critical For A Great Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jul, 06, 2016 @ 09:07 AM

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Moving forward I believe successful companies will positively differentiate themselves versus the competition by providing an outstanding customer experience. Zappos started the trend online and Amazon was smart enough to acquire them and learn from them. Ritz Carlton continues to lead the way in the brick and mortar world.

The key to providing a great customer experience is by giving everyone in your company a 360-degree view of the customer - their wants, their needs, what they've bought from you in the past, what they've returned, what questions they've asked, what issues they've had.

In order to provide this holistic view of the customer, you need a customer relationship management (CRM) database that captures this information and lets your employees access it in real-time. 

The benefits are myriad:

  1. It's a great central repository for all of your customer data that all of your employees can access and update across all devices.
  2. All team members can see what actions have taken place with a particular customer in the past and know what actions need to take place in the future based on your sales process and customer relationship management process.
  3. All team members can see all of the interactions with the clients enabling them to provide more relevant help thereby making the customers' lives simpler and easier.
  4. Your CRM can be integrated with calendars and marketing automation software for appropriate follow-up after the sale or lead nurturing marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads.
  5. The CRM provides real-time metrics so you can see where prospects and customers are in the sales, post-sales follow-up, or problem/resolution cycle.
  6. You can scale your business in an organized way. In order to do so, everyone needs to be encouraged to keep the data clean and up to date.

Having worked with a number of companies over the course of my career, it's interesting to see the lack of emphasis put on the CRM, its adoption and use, and the cleanliness of the data, given that it is a keystone to providing an outstanding customer experience.

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Tags: outstanding customer experience, customer experience, CRM, customer relationship management

Recent Guest Post for inbound281.com

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jun, 22, 2016 @ 15:06 PM

https://web.inbound281.com/blog/expert-interview-series-tom-smith-of-insights-from-analytics

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Tags: insights from analytics accelerate sales, consumer insights, marketing automation

5 Questions to Ask to Begin Mapping the Buyer's Journey

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, May, 18, 2016 @ 10:05 AM

 

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A lot has been written lately about the need to map the buyer's journey. I concur with the importance of doing so; however, I think this needs to be done by talking to customers rather than gathering sales and marketing team members to "hypothesize" about the buyer's journey.

I recommend you begin the process by talking customers.

Here are five questions to get you started:

  1. What first led you to consider our brand?
  2. What problem were you trying to solve?
  3. Who was involved in the decision to consider it?
  4. What other solutions or brands were considered in your evaluation?
  5. What made you decide to start looking for a solution to this particular problem?

 Answers to these questions will lead to follow-up questions. This conversation will result in greater insights and a more accurate buyer's journey than trying to handle the creation process without customer insights.

If your customers are interested in the success of your company, they'll happily provide their insights. If not, you have a bigger issue.

Let me know if you need help with the process.

 

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Tags: buyer's journey, mapping the buyer's hourney

Optimize Lead Nurturing to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 17, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

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A lot of companies I work with treat all leads the same. This slows the sales process and wastes salespeople's time.

When a lead first comes in, regardless of the amount of research the prospect has done on the internet, it's a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and not a sales qualified lead (SQL). I strongly recommend sales and marketing get together to map the customer journey and score leads based on where they are in the journey.

Once you've mapped the customer journey, make sure your run it by a few customers to validate the assumptions you made in the mapping process.

Optimizing lead nurturing is not dissimilar to content marketing to generate leads. Provide information of value and work on answering customers' and prospects' questions to help them through the buying process rather than selling to them.

By providing information of value, you establish the credibility of your firm and your product or service and one that is focused on solving the customer's problem rather than making a sale. Do this consistently and you'll establish trust and people will begin sharing the information of value you provide.

Consider that everything everyone in your firm creates is a form of content that can be reused in content marketing and you need to think about the opportunities to reuse every piece of content 10 times. Great content is the result of everyone in the firm collaborating by providing information of value that marketing and sales can use with customers and prospects.

You will need different content at each step of the journey. Content is either building consistency and continuity or eroding it. Consistency and continuity build trust. Inconsistency and lack of continuity results in confusion and distrust.

Shorter content tends to be more effective at the top of the funnel while longer content is more relevant and appreciated as you proceed down the funnel.

Provide information of value by ensuring what you are sharing is:

  1. timely;
  2. unique;
  3. answering a question or clarifying complex issue; and,
  4. providing insight to the prospect or customer.

Create trustworthy content by:

  • Investing in a journalist or writer from outside the firm to remove bias
  • Let research and customer insights inform a real business problem
  • Gather different points of view
  • Include statistics from credible sources
  • Be industry specific
Top-of-funnel strategies may include:
  • Asking clients and prospects what's driving their interest in your product or service so you know their information needs and wants and providing that information.
  • Asking clients and prospects about the problems or pains they want to solve with your product or service.
  • Asking clients and prospects what kind of budget they have for your products or services.
  • Understand who's responsible for the purchase decision - the individual with the buying authority, as well as the other influencers involved in the process.
  • All of this information will serve to inform the next content.

Middle-of-funnel strategies may include:

  • Building trust
  • Including objective statistics
  • Webcast with an industry expert or thought leader
  • Provide cutting edge content
  • Customize for the audience
  • Create titles that lure and engage

Bottom-of-funnel strategies may include:

  • Solving a specific problem
  • Telling a complete story with quantified results
  • Quotes or testimonials
  • Quick and easy to read and share with others
How are you nurturing leads with relevant content? 

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Tags: marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, lead nurturing

SEO "Best Practices" Today

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, May, 12, 2016 @ 07:05 AM

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Great presentation by Phil Frost, Founder of Main Street ROI (@mainstreetroi), "SEO is Dead: 5 Rules for Winning in the New World of Search."

Given the changes in SEO, and all of the rumors about what you should and shouldn't do, I thought it would be useful to share the thoughts of an SEO professional.

Phil suggests approaching SEO the same way you should approach content marketing - be transparent and provide information of value. Do not try to fool Google. Help Google provide information of value.

Phil reviewed Google's four major updates:

  1. Panda rooted out websites that provided poor user exeperiences (UX), poor design, and poor navigation.
  2. Penguin removed over optimized websites where users were trying to beat Google's algorithm by key word stuffing.
  3. Google+ used social media signals to improve search results by ranking sites based on social media credibility.
  4. Hummingbird interprets the context of a search and provide semantic updates.

As long as you're trying to provide information of value to users, Google updates are an opportunity to improve the performance of your site in search results.

Three things Phil recommends avoiding in order to avoid being penalized by Google:

  1. Over-optimized web pages
    1. Write naturally for your customer do not write for search engines.
    2. Do not stuff keywords on a page.
    3. Aim for 500+ words per page.
    4. Provide information of value.
  2. Self-created links
    1. Do not buy links - you will be penalized.
    2. Do not add links to irrelevant sites.
    3. Do not use the same anchor text on all, or most of, your links.
    4. Focus on sharing information of value to get links.
  3. Unnecessary "SEO" webpages
    1. Do not create multiple pages for similar keywords (e.g. plurals or similar intent).
    2. One page per keyword or theme.

Three predictions for 2016:

  1. Google will continue to fight manipulative SEO tactics.
  2. Local and mobile search will increase in importance; as such, your site needs to be mobile optimized.
  3. Social signals will become more important.

SEO is about partnering with Google to help users.

SEO should resemble and reflect real world relationships where you share information of value with people so they are talking about you and sharing your information with others, as well as providing positive reviews about your products and services.

Here are Phil's five rules:

  1. Research keywords.
    1. Use the Google keyword planner tool to look for long tail keywords.
    2. Look for search volume greater than zero.
    3. Look for words that reflect "buying intent" versus "research intent."
    4. Ask yourself if you really deserve to be ranked number one - do you actually offer the product or service you are promoting?
  2. Website relevance.
    1. Match your message to the market.
    2. Think in terms of target personas.
    3. Pick one page per target keyword and similar phrases.
    4. Use the target keyword in the title, headers, and body copy. Google looks at "titles" of a website like the chapters in a book.
    5. Create the webpage you'd want to find based on what you typed into Google (i.e. long-tail keywords).
  3. Website reputation.
    1. What's your "real world" reputation?
    2. Make sure the websites you're associated with are credible.
    3. Your friends say good things about you in social media.
    4. Focus on attracting links - do not buy or create them.
  4. SEO revenue.
    1. Write for your customers.
    2. Have social proof.
    3. Have clear calls-to-action.
    4. Do your keyword research to find words that generate sales.
    5. Use Google Analytics to track SEO traffic, leads, and sales.
  5. Responsibility.
    1. Identify who is going to be responsible for SEO on a day-to-day basis.
    2. Do not "set and forget" SEO. It must be managed on a daily or weekly basis.
    3. Delegate SEO work only after you understand.

Tactics for getting ranked in 30 days or less:

  1. Piggyback SEO
    1. Piggyback on high authroity websites like YouTube, PRWeb and Webwire
    2. Publish content with keywords in the title.
  2. Local SEO via Google and local listing (20% of searches are local; 40% of mobile searches are local; 97% search for local businesses)
    1. Research = Google Keyword Tool
    2. Relevance = keywords in you profile on local listing sites and relevant online directories
    3. Reputation = citations and reviews

Create a  "search console" (formerly webmaster tools) account in Google to receive alerts if your site is hacked and get advice from Google on the next steps to take to get your ranking back. 

Stay abreast of SEO changes for long term success and don't try to game the system. Establish a set of best practices for sharing information of value and you will be following the SEO "best practices" of the times.

Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues

 

 

Tags: SEO, keywords

Customers' Emotional Connection to the Brand and #CX Pays

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Apr, 27, 2016 @ 12:04 PM

 

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Great insights from Bruce Temkin and Temkin Group with the following statistics from "ROI of Customer Experience 2015" which looked at the connection between customer experience (CX) and loyalty for 10,000 consumers and 300 companies across 20 industries.

Key findings:

  • 87% of consumers who give a high rating for emotion were likely to make multiple purchases, compared to 13% who gave a low rating.
  • 76% of consumers who gave a high rating for emotion were promoters compared to six percent who gave a low rating.
  • 63% of consumers who gave a high emotion rating were likely to forgive a company's mistakes compared to 11% giving a low rating.

The findings from Temkin Group are reinforced by findings from Forrester:

  • CX leaders grow revenue three times faster than CX laggards. On average the eight CX leaders had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of15% while the laggards grew at an average of 2.5%.
  • Companies with superior CX can charge more for their products and services. This is especially true for customers who rate an experience as "outstanding."
  • Superior CX drives customer loyalty and purchase intent. When customer has a good experience they'll tell their friends about it - in person and online, they'll spend more with you and be less likely to move to a competitor if you have a hiccup in service.

I've written numerous posts of the need to create an emotional connection to the brand.

I've worked with companies where the SaaS customers were not engaged with the brand and renewal rates were dismal. I've worked with a professional services who was much more concerned with sales than customer sat, CX and retention with similar results.

You need to establish a two-way relationship, ideally a dialogue, with your customer where you are learning what's important to your customers, while at the same time convincing them of your commitment to meeting their needs. The more you learn about customers' needs and wants, the more you'll be able to make their lives simpler and easier which will lead to a "customer for life."

The more you establish an emotional connection with your customer, and provide a solid CX, the more loyal they will be, you'll see less churn, and greater revenue.

As more companies learn about the positive ROI in engagement and CX, perhaps they'll reallocate their marketing spend from lead gen to customer retention?

What are you doing to enhance the emotional engagement and CX of your customers with your brand?

 

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Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, CX

Big Data and Market Research Have A Lot In Common

Posted by Tom Smith on Sat, Apr, 16, 2016 @ 21:04 PM

 

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I was just reading an article in the spring edition of Big Data Quarterly and it appears that people and companies pursuing big data initiatives would be well-served to remember some of the basics we learned in market research 101.

Know what you're going to do with the data before you start collecting every byte of it. With the proliferation of sensor data, companies can become overwhelmed with data very quickly if they collect every piece of data rather than exceptions.

Imagine a city that's measuring flows in its water infrastructure. Does the city need to know how much water is flowing through a particular section of pipe every second or even every minute? Wouldn't the city be better served to determine a "normal" flow rate based of day and time and then look for exceptions to that data that may indicate a leak or a big event taking place?

By being more strategic in why you are collecting the data and what you are going to do with it you don't have to capture, store and analyze every data point. This reduces computing time and storage costs. While those costs might seem inconsequential today, determine how much data you're going to collect over the course of 365 days, and then 3,650 days. Is the cost still inconsequential? What's the ROI on those costs?I know a lot of companies want to collect all of the data they can and then figure out what to do with it after the fact. This reminds me of all of the surveys I've seen with 30+ questions, matrices, and open-ends that take more than 10 minutes to answer - wasting customers' and respondents' time. Rule number one in market research is don't ask the question if you don't know what you're going to do with the answer. It's rude and inconsiderate to the respondent and has led to a reduction in response rates and a loss of customers.

I you ask a customer a question and the customer answers it, it's incumbent upon you to thank the customer for their response and let them know how you'll address it. Granted there are very few companies following this "best practice" today; however, as companies become more customer centric, they'll be more conscientious about following up with customers who take the time to provide their invaluable input.

I've worked with clients that didn't even read the results of their customer surveys before creating a new website or developing a new product or service. Why did they waste their customers' time with the survey? It is any wonder customers aren't engaged with these companies? The companies sure aren't engaged with their customers.

With more data being collected on prospect and customer actions, customer expectations of your company, and the water company, are going to increase. If the city knows my water main is leaking, isn't it incumbent upon them to let me know rather than wasting water and sending me a water bill I can't afford? Today they may get away with it. In five years, they'll have no excuse of taking advantage of their customers or wasting a precious natural resource.

While the customer experience (#CX) bar is very low today, customers will become more savvy about the data companies are collecting and how they are, or are not, using that data to improve the customer experience. If you can save a customer time, make their lives simpler and easier, you can earn a customer for life. What if your competitor beats you to the punch? You'll lose a customer for life.

With all of the data you're collecting on your physical plant, how much are you saving on energy, water, and operating expenses? How much space is being wasted and how will your next building use the data you've collected to be a smarter building? How much are you improving the employees' working environment so you attract the type of employees you need to be successful?

Big data is new and exciting for companies; however, few companies have figured out how to use the data to improve their business, reduce cost, improve revenue, and customer satisfaction.

Ultimately the companies that figure out how to use big data to improve their business, across many areas, will be successful while those who do not will fall by the wayside.

Are you using what you've learned from big data to inform your strategic planning or just collecting data?

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Tags: consumer insights, big data, market research