What's Your Story?

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Mar, 28, 2018 @ 09:03 AM

What's your story?


Whether you’re a B2B, B2C, or not-for-profit organization, you need a story to help people remember where you came from, what you stand for, and your commitment to providing an outstanding customer experience.


People remember stories better than they remember features and benefits, numbers, or product facts.


Stories are a great way to add emotion to your brand. Emotion is important since more than 90 percent of the decisions we make have an emotional component to them. Organizations need to consider the feelings they want to evoke in their target personas when developing their brand story.


I worked for the largest professional services firm in a large vertical industry. I researched the history of the organization and came up with a powerful two-minute story that would help clients and prospects understand everything the company offered and why.


None of the employees wanted to use the company story because they were focused on selling only their particular services. This company suffered through the recession when it could have had a much larger portfolio of business from clients and prospects who understood everything they had to offer and how those other parts of the business could help their company through the recession.


I also did work for the largest health insurer in my home state. We created a series of emotionally-driven testimonials that drove down negative perceptions by 39%, increased positive perceptions by 18%, and doubled inbound leads.


Stories can be retold by customers and prospects across any media channel. In fact, stories from customers (i.e. testimonials) are more powerful than those told by the company and create a greater emotional connection to the brand.


How do you create your brand story? Ask senior members of the organization:


  • How did the company get started?


  • How has it evolved as the market has evolved?


  • How has your brand story evolved with your company?


  • What is the company most proud of?


  • What’s the most extraordinary customer experience the company has provided?


Stories are powerful tools for empowering and engaging employees. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency builds confusion and distrust. Your employees need a compelling story to tell when someone asks who they work for and your employees need to tell the same story regardless of if they’re in sales, finance, or production.


Ideally your brand story will communicate the vision, mission, values, and strategic positioning of your company exemplifying what makes you “different and better” in a consistent and compelling way.


So, what’s your story?


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

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, trust, connecting emotionally with customers, vision, mission, values, strategic positioning, brand platform

Improve the Customer Experience (#CX) by "Checking In"

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Dec, 02, 2014 @ 00:12 AM

customer experience satisfaction and improvement









Once you or your company has made a sale of a product or service to a customer what do you do next?


Do you know if the customer was satisfied with their purchase?


Did they find value in what they bought?


What's working or not working for them?


What are they telling others about you and your product or service?


Customer experience management and customer satisfaction and retention are still woefully underfunded and underemphasized relative to demand creation, lead generation and sales even though an existing customer is more likely to buy from you again than a new customer is for the first time.


Once a sale is made, let the customer support team know so they can send the new customer a satisfaction survey to learn how the buying process went.


When the company engages with the customer after a transaction, it makes the interaction feel more personal, like a relationship is being formed, rather than a one-time experience.


The insights you gather by interacting with customers will be invaluable.


Get sales, marketing and customer service to sit down and map the customer engagement experience you would like customers to have and then use you marketing automation platform or customer service reps to implement the multiple touch-point program.


Don't stop there. Ask your customers about what they think of your plan.


This will vary depending on the type of product or service being sold, as well as what the customer defines as a positive, or better yet, outstanding customer engagement experience.


Learn when to send a Net Promoter Score survey and how to follow-up on the results of the survey. Have a closed-loop process for handling feedback and resolving all detractor comments.


Determine how many times you should touch a customer who has bought an annual subscription/contract so that they're not just hearing from you in month 11 when it's time to renew.


Mapping the customer experience journey, measuring customer satisfaction and then committing to improve it is a great way to generate more revenue from the same customers and have customers for life.


Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: customers for life, consumer insights, customer experience, net promoter score, connecting emotionally with customers, customer retention, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement

Use Voice of the Customer (#VOC) to Reduce Churn

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 22, 2014 @ 11:10 AM

voice of the customer resized 600









Do you know what your customers think about the products and services you and your firm are providing?


Are they likely to buy from you again?


Will they renew their contract?


If you don't know, you should ask them.


The insights you receive from a proactive voice of the customer program will let you know what is, and is not, working for your customers.


A customer who complains, and whose complaint is resolved, is more likely to be a long-term customer than the one who never provides you any feedback at all.


Customers that take the time to share their thoughts with you are engaged with you and your brand.


Don't you want to know the level of engagement your customers have with you?


Ask your customers about your transactions, as well as your relationships.


I prefer using a three-question Net Promoter survey. I find this to be an quick and easy way for the customer to let us know how we're doing and what we can do to improve.


Surveying heavy cell phone customers enabled us to learn how they wanted to be rewarded for their loyalty. By learning that customers wanted the lastet and greatest technology, we ensured they did and subsequently reduced churn by 9% and prevented $16 million in lost revenue.


For a swimming pool OEM, we surveyed 3,289 pool and spa distributors to learn what we could do to positively differentiate our products and sevices from the market leader. The insights provided by these B2B customers enabled us to make changes to our products and services that enabled our client to move from third-place to first-place in the industry.


As you can see, VOC can be used in both B2C and B2B markets.


After all, we're still people selling to people. It's important to understand what's on our customers' minds rather than assuming we know.


Consider spending time and money to prevent customer attrition rather than focusing all of your effforts on getting new customers. 


How have you used voice of the customer to reduce churn and improve the customer experience in your business?


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: consumer insights, VoC, voice of the customer, net promoter score, connecting emotionally with customers, NPS

Drive Adoption and Engagement with Employee Advocacy

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Oct, 03, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

employee advocates








Thanks to Susan Emerick (@sfemerick), CEO and founder of Brands Rising, Lori Grey (@lsgrey) of Deloitte and Alex Cramer (@cramer1000) of Dynamic Signal for an informative presentation on empowering and engaging employees to help drive customer adoption and engagement.


I've written before about how loyal employees = loyal customers.


More and more brands are empowering their employees to support the goals of the brand by using content and employee-owned social media expertise and contacts.


When you consider the number of social media contacts and followers your brand has versus that of all of your employees, you have a tremendous opportunity to increase the reach of your message by asking your employees to share your messages and information of value with their social networks as well as your customers and prospects.


Besides, employees generate more trust than companies:

  • 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know while only 15% trust recommendations from brands (Gartner).

  • 70% of customer brand perception is determined by experiences with people (Market Leader).

  • Leads developed through employee social marketing convert 7X more than other leads (IBM).

  • People like to do business with those they know, like and trust. Employees humanize your brand. 


There are several steps to building an employee advocacy program:

  1. Determine the "best fit" candidates.

  2. Provide training, remove doubt.

  3. Personalize. 
  4. Reward and recognize.

Determining "best fit" candidates depends on the vision, mission and values of your organization and finding the people who are already in alignment and equipped to share their knowledge and expertise.
Characteristics of "best fit" candidates are:
  1. Already have a strong social media footprint.

  2. Comfortable collaborating online.

  3. Find value in creating and nurturing relationships via social media.

  4. Demonstrate a long-term commitment to sustained engagement.

  5. Open to coaching, guidance and learning from data. 


There are several steps you can take to provide training and remove doubt given that people and companies have concerns about employees posting on social media on behalf of the company:

  1. Provide education and training on social media best practices, as well as any restrictions the company may have based on industry requirements.

  2. Have peer mentoring or teammates you can bounce questions off of.

  3. Provide an online source of content that's preapproved -- prewritten, preapproved share text that employees can customize. This ensures consistent messaging and eliminates the need for employees to develop information of value from scratch.


Personalize the content you are asking your employees to share:

  1. Employees will be much more comfortable with, and likely to share, content that's relevant to them personally and professionally. They'll also be more comfortable personalizing for the channel or the audience.

  2. Use sign-up forms to create groups to know which topics or industries interest which people.

  3. Use groups to tag and distribute content.  


Reward and recognize those employees that are helping spread the company message via social media:

  1. Professional recognition is having contributors recognized by their peers and executive management about what they are doing, as well as their accomplishments.

  2. External recognition is showcasing individuals as industry thought-leaders giving them an opportunity to represent, or speak on behalf of, the company at industry functions. 


Do you have an employee advocacy program in place?


How are your employees' activities benefitting the company?


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

Tags: transparency, empower employees, connecting emotionally with customers, customer engagement, employee engagement, loyal employees

Use Social Media to Outsell Your Peers

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Oct, 02, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

social selling









According to Jill Rowley (@jill_rowley, #socialselling), sales reps that use social media outsell 78% of their peers because they:

  1. Establish credibility with compelling social profiles -- including professional photographs, accomplishments and references.

  2. Build relevant networks of prospects and like minded individuals that help maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospects and channel partners.

  3. Promote thought leadership that captures attention, builds their personal brand and attracts inbound opportunities.

  4. Listen to customers and prospects to understand needs, priorities and topics of interest.

  5. Measure their social activity to understand what's working, what isn't and to refine their approach.

Given that sales are all about relationships, then social media is a great way to initiate and enhance relationships. 



Are the members of your sales team using social media to make their calls more efficient and successful?


Give me a call if you'd like some help teaching them how.


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


Tags: consumer insights, trust, VoC, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, connecting emotionally with customers, people do business with those they know like and t, customer relationship management, channel partners, Trustability

Be Responsive to Feedback

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 26, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

dialogue with customer







Whethers it's a customer, a prospect or influencer.


Over the past week I’ve had four situations where I’ve reached out to product and service providers I use, or might use, and haven’t heard back from one.


I’ve been eating Clif Bars ( for about 10 years after finding out I was allergic to wheat, milk and sugar. I eat them for breakfast or dinner when I cannot find a healthy alternative. Last week I opened one that had cobwebs(?) in it. After eating more than 1,000 Clif Bars I knew this was an anomaly and wrote the company, told them where I bought the product and the code number on the package. A week later, I’ve heard nothing.


I’ve hosted my personal website at GoDaddy ( for six years. After writing a blog and having a decent number of followers for nine months, I decided to try to get my blog on the home page of my website. Apparently that is not an option according to the CSR. Then I wrote an e-mail to complain and asked for a work around. A week later, I’ve heard nothing.


I’ve been banking at Wachovia, quickly becoming Wells Fargo (, for 30 years. I received an e-mail asking me to be kind to the planet and switch to electronic statements. I’m open to doing so but I would like them to stop charging me a $5 fee for something trivial in return. I responding to their e-mail with the quid pro quo. A month later, I’ve heard nothing.


I work in Greensboro, NC and my daily trips to Chipotle and the gym take me by a D.H. Griffin ( metal reclamation facility three or four times a day. The entrance to the facility happens to be adjacent to two sets of railroad tracks so all of the trucks going in and out of the reclamation facility get jostled. This past Tuesday on my way back from Chipotle, my tire was punctured by a metal shard just after crossing the railroad tracks. I wrote the owner of D.H. Griffin and the manager of the Greensboro operation. After a week, I’ve heard nothing. However, when I went by there for lunch on Wednesday, they did have someone in an orange vest picking up all of the loose metal near their entrance and the railroad tracks.


In every case, I’m trying to help these companies out or let them know what they can do to improve their product, service or image in the community.


When someone care enough to reach out to you with a thought, a suggestion or question, the least you can do is acknowledge their efforts and thank them.


Engagement them in a dialogue to better understand their needs and wants. Odds are they're saying what others are thinking.


If you don’t, someone who is listening will.


If you’re going to give customers an opportunity to provide feedback, at least acknowledge the effort they’ve made to correspond to you.


And, as I learned a long time ago, the first thing you say to someone who provides you feedback is “thank you.”


Do you thank your customers for the feedback they provide?


Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: dialogue, be responsive, be real, connecting emotionally with customers

Ensure Your Content Marketing is Integrated Marketing

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jul, 02, 2014 @ 22:07 PM

converged media workflow resized 600 








Great webinar by Heather Whaling (@prtini), CEO of Goben Communications, Heidi Sullivan (@hksully) SVP of Digital Content at Cision and Scott Livingston, SVP of Market Engagement at Cision entitled, "Marketing Through Content: Integrated Communications Strategies That Work."


Having been a proponent of integrated marketing since my career began, and also being a proponent of inbound and content marketing, I think this is an extremely important topic that gets far too little discussion as we see the proliferation of media channels.


Just as TV and radio are more effective when used together, rather than independently, content, social, digital and traditional media are all more effective if used together rather than independently.


As marketers, it is critical that we ensure the consistency of message, tone and brand voice across all of the channels we use to market our brands.


Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency breeds confusion and distrust.


I am a big fan of Chipotle and their commitment to delivering "food with integrity." However, when I saw "Farmed and Dangerous," their sarcastic look into "big food" companies, that felt off brand and inconsistent to me.


I reached out to Chipotle to share my thoughts, and while I never got a response, I haven't seen the second of four episodes of "Farmed and Dangerous." I hope they'll let it die.


So how can you ensure a consistent message is delivered across all the channels through which you communicate with customers and prospects?


Heidi provided the Altimeter Group's "converged media workflow" -- how brands must combine paid, earned and owned media:


  1. Content strategy. If you don't have a creative strategy brief, get one and make sure everyone on your team fully understands it and is interpreting it in the same way.

  2. Publication across channels. Determine where your customers and prospects are most receptive to hearing from you. Where do they want their questions answered? How do they want to find out about a new product or service?

  3. Engagement/dialog. People don't engage with companies or brands, they engage with the people behind the brand. Empower your employees to engage in a dialog with customers. This will enhance their emotional connection with the brand. The more employees they have a positive experience with, the stronger the emotional connection.

  4. Amplification. Produce content (advertising, press releases, blog posts, tweets) that people find sufficiently compelling to want to share. I think Chipotle did a great job of this with "The Scarecrow."

  5. Restructuring. Think about how content can be repurposed across channels in paid, earned and owned media. Customize content for the channel but ensure that it remains on strategy and consistent with all your other messages. Think about how you can use each piece of content 10 different times in 10 different channels by repurposing the content.

  6. Listening/iterating. What are your customers and prospects taking away from your messages? Don't assume you know, ask them! Don't be afraid to engage your customers and prospects in a conversation because they may tell you something you don't want to hear. In the age of the Internet and social media, the customer creates your brand perception. Do you want to participate in the creation or stand idly by?

  7. Strategic analysis and reporting. As part of your strategic planning process, identify key performance indicators and monitor them religiously. Don't forget to supplement analytics with qualitative insights that let you know why a customer or prospect is reacting the way are.


Identify the stories you should be telling by learning which ones elicit an emotional connection with your customers.


What are the stories your customers are telling about you?


What are the stories your employees are telling each other about providing an outstanding customer experience?


Stories are much more memorable, and shared, than features and benefits.


Engage your raving fans in a conversation to help identify the most compelling stories that support your strategy and brand promise.


By doing so, your customers will become brand ambassadors and share your stories with their friends, family and colleagues.


Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales 

Tags: trust, dialog, alignment, consistent messaging, authenticity, connecting emotionally with customers, content, integrated marketing

Engage with Customers in all Channels to Improve Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jun, 11, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

engage in social media for better customer experience











Your customers, and prospects, are talking about you, your products and the level of service you provide. Are you listening?


Thanks to Oscar Alban @Verint, Kristen Jacobsen @Calabrio and Mike Hennessy @IntelliResponse for an good disccussion of "How to Understand the True Voice of the Customer." 


I have been urging clients to listen intensely to their customers in order to meet their needs and expectations for years.


As the social and mobile playing fields continue to expand, listening has become more difficult -- let alone intense listening. However, it can be done and needs to be on your radar. 


Customer expectations are changing daily as companies like Zappos provide consistently outstanding customer experiences.


Customers now expect you to:


  • Know them as a result of their personal interactions with you.

  • Offer them targeted and relevant content and promotions based on their past interactions with you.

  • Know how they found you, what they like and don't like about you and how they want to do business with you going forward.
  • Invest in social media and mobile as service channels.

  • Let them control the shopping and service process.

Customer experience (#cx) will be the primary differentiator between both B2B and B2C companies in the 21st century.


What are you doing to provide your customers with a "different and better" customer experience than your competitors?


How well do you, and your employees, know your customers?


Millennials list the phone as their fourth channel of choice at 29% versus:

  • Email/SMS = 42%

  • Social media = 36%

  • Smartphone = 32%

For your business to remain relevant to your customers over time, you must be prepared to interact with, and serve, your customers across multiple channels and touchpoints in an integrated manner.


While your business may remain siloed for organizational purposes, customer data cannot.


Everyone in your company needs to have a 360-view of the customer at their fingertips to be able to provide the customer with an acceptable level of service.


Customer information must flow seamlessly throughout your organization.


The leading omnichannel challenges are:


  • Expectations -- customer expectations are outrunning companies' ability to deliver across channels. Companies that are successful at meeting customers' expectations will have a "first-mover" advantage.

  • Employee knowledge -- customers know more about your products, services and prices than your employees. Will you invest in your employees to ensure this doesn't happen. The average financial institution spends 30 minutes trainng a teller before putting them in front of a customer.

  • Unpredictable -- customers are using different, and multiple, channels to do different things. You need to be listening intensely online to know where your customers are and where they expect you to be. Don't forget about forums, blogs and online communities in addition to traditional social media channels.

  • Loyalty -- a good customer experience in one channel is not sufficient to maintain loyalty if you're failing to fulfill customers' needs in other channels.
It's critical that your contact center and your customer experience management teams (i.e., people, processes and technology) be completely integrated.
The solutions available to engage with customers across channels are improving daily.
Define your goals and objectives with regards to ensuring that your firm is delivering an excellent customer experience across multiple channels and then begin evaluating the platfforms and solutions that will help you achieve your goals.
Talk with your customers about their needs, wants and expectations with regards to research, purchase and service currently and in the future.
Engage your customers to understand what they consider to be an acceptable and an outstanding customer experience in this ever-changing landscape of content, product and service delivery.
Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: customer experience, VoC, voice of the customer, earn your customers trust, connecting emotionally with customers, customer engagement, listen intensely, social media

Why are companies afraid of social media?

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Apr, 02, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

companies should embrace social media







I recently saw this question asked in an online forum.


I believe companies that are not engaging customers and prospects on social media are reluctant to admit that the consumer is now in control of their brand and the perception of their brand.


Failure to engage with customers or prospects gives them even more control.


If a company wants to be an industry leader, they must be a leader in social media as well -- sharing information of value, educating prospects and customers, addressing industry issues.


Empower employees to engage with customers and prospects online to answer their questions, educate them and provide information of value.


Small businesses have a tremendous opportunity to compete with large companies with significant marketing budgets, by providing information of value to build awareness, credibility and trust as well as traffic and leads.


Don't have any information of value to share? Think again. What questions have you ever been asked by a customer or prospect? Every answer to every question is the topic for a blog post.


Restaurants that change their menus daily of weekly should post them on social media.


Retailers that have new items to feature should take a picture of them and post them on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.


Did you just make a presentation to business professionals about how they can use your services to save time and money? Why not post the PowerPoint on Slideshare, LinkedIn, your website and targeted LinkedIn Groups.


The more you share content and interact with people online, the more they see there's a real person behind the company. This engenders trusts and begins to develop the type of relationship that can lead to a long-term customer.


Companies must also provide an acceptable, if not outstanding, customer experience. Those who don't will be called out on social media, whether they're participating in social media or not.


You employees need to know this and be empowered to deliver outstanding customer service and resolve issues in favor of the customer in the first call, email, post or exchange.


A customer whose complaint is resolved is more likely to be a long-term customer than the customer who never complains.


Be relevant, be reliable, be responsive, be real, or be gone.


Why do you think companies are afraid of social media?


Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: be reliable, be responsive, be real, empower employees, connecting emotionally with customers, be relevant, be real or be gone

Use Customer Stories to Create an Emotional Connection to the Brand

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Apr, 01, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

emotional connection to the brand







One of the best ways to create an emotional connection with the brand is to include a customer's story in the campaign.


Another is to share customer stories on the brand's website and social media channels.


We did this in a campaign with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina when they were considering becoming a for profit company and when the media reported the CEO was making more than $2 million per year.


Just recently, the media reported that six executives were making more than $1 million per year.


By doing one-on-one interviews, we learned the strong positive feelings customers had for the insurance company.


We found several customers who had exceptional stories about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina helping them through very challenging, and emotional, medical events.


We produced a series of TV commercials, print ads, banner ads and billboards sharing these stories.


Negative perceptions of the brand fell 39%, positive perceptions increased 18% and the number of inbound leads doubled the first eight weeks the campaign ran.

Viewers' perceptions of the brand changed with these emotional-charged stories that showed how Blue Cross and Blue Shield was there for their customers when they really needed them. 


Once customers have fallen in love with a brand, they're more likely to be committed to it.


When customers are infatuated, they're not as easily persuaded by competitors, but they will try to persuade others, especailly during major events.


Empower your customers to spread the word about you and tell your story.


Word of mouth is still the most efficient and effective marketing. 


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, connecting emotionally with customers, referrals, promoters