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Integrity Results in Customers for Life

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jan, 07, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

Integrity gets customers for life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Integrity means doing what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it. It's the imperative foundation for creating trust.

 

If you cannot guarantee something for a customer then do not make them a promise.

 

Provide the best insights, advice and recommendations you can and leave it at that. Making commitments that are questionable will lead to your customers having questions about you, your word and your firm.

 

If you do happen to make a commitment you cannot keep, let your customer know as soon as possible. Do not wait until the due date/time, it just erodes your credibility further.

 

Explain why you cannot keep the commitment. If you've built sufficient positive equity with your customer over the course of your relationship, they'll forgive you. Just don't make a habit of it or you'll surely run out of equity.

 

Never lie to a customer -- it's hard enough to keep up with the truth.

 

You can never thank a customer too much. Thank them in person, thank them over the phone, via e-mail and especially with a handwritten note. In this day and age, a handwritten thank you note is very powerful.

 

Find creative ways to thank your customers and show them you appreciate their business. Amazon used to include bookmarks with their books. I thought this was a great value add and advertising vehicle for them but they stopped.

 

Thank your employees for treating your customers well. They're on the front lines with customers representing your business. Treat your employees the way you want your employees to treat your customers.

 

A company's commitment to provide outstanding customer service starts with senior management. That level of commitment is reflected by every employee. Zappos is a great example of this.

 

Ensure that you and your customer's definition of excellent service are congruent. Set or define expectations early in your relationship to minimize confusion as the relationship expands. If you're not sure what your customer's expectations are -- ask them!

 

A friend of mine, Dr. Ralph James, wrote a book for the construction industry called The Integrity Chain. While Ralph wrote the book for the construction industry it is relevant to any industry. The premise is, without integrity you will have fewer customers and less revenue over the long-term. I could not agree with him more.

 

Do you and your employees just want to make the sale or do you want customers for life?

 

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Tags: customers for life, do what you say you will do, trust, integrity

4 Tenets of Conscious Capitalism

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jan, 05, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

I just read an interesting interview with Kip Tindell, chairman and CEO of The Container Store and a leader of a growing movement called Conscious Capitalism which teaches business leaders to create shared value by making their companies more successful and competitive while advancing the quality of life for the community and the world.

 

The concept of Conscious Capitalism is consistent with a personal philosophy that I shared with a colleague several years ago -- there's plenty of business for everyone that plays nice and plays by the rules.

 

Sadly, we see a lot of individuals who do neither making a lot of money at the expense of others (i.e., executives at Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Bank of America, et.al.).

 

Conscious Capitalism puts purpose before profits with the belief that balancing the needs of all of a business' stakeholders -- employees, customers, suppliers, community and shareholders -- is the right thing to do and will result in a more profitable and successful business.

 

Four businesses that exemplify Conscious Capitalism are The Container Store, Whole Foods, Zappos and Southwest Airlines.  

 

All four of these companies put employees first and focus on providing an outstanding customer experience -- both of which are integral to the second tenet since employees and customers are both key stakeholders.

  1. Higher purpose.  Also known as the "mission" -- the purpose of the company beyond making a profit or dominating a market position.  A compelling sense of purpose can create a high level of engagement by the stakeholders and generate tremendous organizational energy.
     
  2. Stakeholder orientation.  Explicitly managed for the good of all stakeholders including customers, employees, investors, suppliers and the larger communities in which the business participates.  By creating value for all stakeholders, the whole system advances.  Zappos is making a dramatic contribution to their community by significantly revitalizing a "dead" downtown Las Vegas.
     
  3. Conscious leadership.  Management is driven by service to the firm's higher purpose and focuses on delivering value to the stakeholders. Conscious leaders adopt a holistic worldview that goes well beyond the limitations of traditional business.  Enterprises, and individuals, are part of a complex, interdependent and evolving system with multiple constituencies.
     
  4. Conscious culture as captured by the acronym TACTILE.  T = trust.  A = authenticity.  C = caring.  T = transparency.  I = integrity.  L = learning.  E = empowerment.  A conscious culture is very tangible to stakeholders and outside observers.

The result of this is empowered employees who we know work harder, are more creative, care more and are responsible for driving greater customer experiences.

Another result is long-term trusted relationships with suppliers, consistent with The Integrity Chain, which is more profitable for both parties.

Would your company benefit by following the four tenets of Conscious Capitalism?

What is your higher purpose?

If you're interested, you can sign up for the Conscious Capitalism newsletter here.

 

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Tags: conscious capitalism, empowerment, transparency, integrity, mission

Top 10 "Insights From Analytics" Blog Posts of 2014

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Dec, 30, 2014 @ 10:12 AM

 

Following are the most read blog posts during 2014.

 

Thank you for reading and sharing with others you think would be interested.

 

Please let me know if I can assist you, or your firm, in any way.

 

  1. Top 10 U.S. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for 2013

  2. The Importance of Face to Face Communications

Happy New Year, have a great 2015!

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

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, integrity, accelerate sales, net promoter score, NPS, face to face communications

16 Ways to Build Trust with Customers and Prospects

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Dec, 03, 2014 @ 12:12 PM

trust resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the Edelman Trust Barometer who has been performing this study for the past 14 years. This year's research includes 33,000 respondents from 27 countries.

 

The findings are the fundamentals we all need to follow to build trust with customers and prospects:

 

  1. Listen to customer needs and feedback and have a closed loop process to address them. I suggest using a three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to begin the dialogue.

  2. Treat your employees well. Your employees will only treat your customers as well as you treat your employees.

  3. Place customers ahead of profits. Do what's right for the customer and everything else will take care of itself. Do what's wrong by the customer and you'll be called out on social media and will fail faster.

  4. Communicate with integrity and honesty. Be open and transparent. Again, if you're not, you'll be called out on social media and your business will be toast.

  5. Have ethical business practices. Do unto others . . .

  6. Take responsible action to address issues or concerns in a timely manner. If you can't resolve the issue by the end of the day, let the customer know the status of the resolution and when they can expect their issue to be resolved.

  7. Have transparent and open business practices. Perhaps cell phone and cable companies would have higher NPS scores if they had this philosophy?

  8. Offer high quality products and services. Give people products and service of value. Ask customers if they feel like they're receiving good value from your products or services.

  9. Be innovative. Offer new products, services or ideas. Anything you can do to make life easier and simpler for customers will be rewarded with more business and mentions in social media.

  10. Work to protect and improve the environment. It's telling that all of the BP stations in my area of North Carolina are being rebranded.

  11. Address society's needs in every day business. This goes back to having a vision and mission that's more than about just making money.

  12. Create programs that positively impact the local community. Give back to the community that supports your business and livelihood.

  13. Partner with NGO's, government and third parties to address society needs. We're beginning to see more public-private partnerships to address the country's crumbling infrastructure.

  14. Have highly-regarded and widely-admired top leadership. Your leaders are your brand outside your company. Are they on brand? Are they active on social media and within the industry expressing their point-of- view? Leaders don't hide, they're out front engaging customers as well as critics.

  15. Rank high on a global list of companies. Decide what you want to be known for and be the best you can be at it.

  16. Deliver consistent financial returns to investors. Companies that build trust with customers and have high NPS scores tend to perform better financially than those who don't. It's simply good business to do what's right by your customers and prospects.

To me, these 16 ways to build trust boils down to my personal mantra: "Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it?"

 

Which of the 16 things is your company doing well?

 

Where can you improve?

 

If you don't know, ask your customers. 

Tags: transparency, trust, be responsive, integrity, customer centric, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Accelerate Sales with Social Media

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 02, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

use social media to enhance customer engagement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use social media to build authentic engagement with customers and prospects throughout their customer lifecycle.

 

Open, transparent and honest conversations accelerate the customer lifecycle, as well as the sales cycle.

 

The more you know about your customers and prospects, the more you are able to help them by providing information of value that will simplify their lives.

 

The more you simplify their lives, the more loyal they will be, the more they will buy from you in the near-term and the greater lifetime value they'll have for your firm.

 

Strive to build relationships.

 

Facilitate conversations across all stages of the customer lifecycle. The person who is just considering your product or service for the very first time is very different than a previous customer or someone who has been researching for the past few months.

 

As an example, I’ve been evaluating marketing automation software for employers and clients for the past five years so I’m a fairly well-informed prospect; however, the features and benefits of the platforms change so frequently I need to get a demo every six months so I'm fully aware of what one platform offers versus another.

 

Know what your prospects know and then share with them what they need to know to make a well-informed decision.

 

Customer communities help build engagement and brand advocacy.

 

Prospective customers trust what other customers say about your product or service, twice as much as what the company says.

 

Empower your customers to speak to others on your behalf.

 

Encourage them to do so by providing "wow" customer experiences that they want to share with their friends, family and colleagues, as well as their social media followers.

 

You can drive engagement and activate revenue through persistent, discoverable and relevant conversations.

 

Make fleeting social interactions more persistent and long-term to build trust and credibility.

 

Relevant content drives conversion. Achieve this by prioritizing and contextually appropriate community topics.

 

Ask your customers and prospects what they want to know more about and then engage them.

 

Engagement = (Content + People) x Participation

 

Relevant answers to relevant questions accelerate revenue.

 

Know your customer's buying cycles.

 

Know what their questions are at each stage of the cycle.

 

Answer the question before they ask it.

 

You will earn their trust and make their lives simpler and easier.

Click Here to Download the Free e-book

Tags: trust, integrity, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, authenticity, listen intensely, social media

Limiting Online Reviews Inhibits Transparency, Integrity and Insights

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 31, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

Lack of transparency

 

 

 

 

My sister in-law is a frequent traveler who booked a three-day trip to New York to shop and visit museums with a friend of her's from Chicago.

 

She used Expedia to book the six-star Pierre, a Taj Property, and was disappointed and embarrassed by the service she and her friend received.

 

When she tried to post a less than stellar review on Expedia, she was told, "Your hotel review needs revision."

 

This is the gist of what she said:

 

  • The staff was polite but they didn't know what time their restaurants opened.  My friend and I were sent back and forth between the restaurants at the hotel because neither were open with staff telling us they were open when, in fact, they weren't.
     
  • My tea arrived on a pretty tablecloth but the waiter brought French toast which I didn't order.
      
  • The tea pot burned my hand because the handle was metal and had no cover.
     
  • The hair dryer was cheap and burned my hair,
     
  • When I checked out, we asked the porter for our 5 pieces of baggage.   he said "okay", then turned around and started talking to the other staff members.  when we reminded him we had a flight to catch, he went to get the bags, which we could see in the hallway.   It took three staff members to count our bags. How many staff members does it take . . .
     
  • All in all, I chose the hotel expecting first rate service and got just an above averge hotel stay.  I was so disappointed because I thought so highly of the hotel's reputation.
     
  • The location is superb; can't ask for better.

 

"When I told my friends at work about my experience, they said........"maybe that's why you can find that hotel on Expedia."

 

Expedia is not doing themselves, their customers or the Pierre any favors.

 

I saw recently where Four Seasons had just surpassed Ritz Carlton in terms of customer service.

 

If Taj Hotels don't get feedback from disgruntled customers, how are they going to improve.

 

Companies like Expedia are wasting the value of voice of the customer (VOC) feedback by trying to supress less than perfect ratings.

 

I've seen car dealers do this and they're just hurting themselves.

 

Be real, be reliable, and be responsive -- or be gone.

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Tags: consumer insights, transparency, be reliable, be responsive, integrity, be real, VoC, voice of the customer

B2B Companies Need to Provide Information of Value Upfront

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Feb, 05, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

information of value resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several reports have noted that today, 60% of the B2B buying process has taken place before the prospect ever speaks to a sales person.

  • The prospect has already checked out your website, and that of your competitors.
  • They've read your blog posts and those of your competitors.
  • They've been in LinkedIn groups and asked questions about you and your competitors.
  • They've read reviews of your product or service, as well as those of your competitors.

So why not go ahead and provide all of the information your prospects might want upfront?

It accelerates your sales process and eliminates non-qualifying prospects upfront thus eliminating calls on people who are not prospects for your product or service.

Providing information of value gets you more web traffic and generates more leads.

By answering prospects' questions upfront, you earn their trust and you establish yourself, or your firm, as the thought-leader as well as the industry leader.

Be willing to share anything in advance that you would share on a sales call.

If you're afraid to do so because your information is proprietary, you can assume your competitors will get the information within an hour of you providing to a prospect.

The internet rewards those who share information and penalizes those who hoard information.

Answer every question a customer has ever asked online, preferably on a blog. This wll create awareness, trust, improve your website's SEO and generate more leads.

So how do you handle the price question? In a straightforward manner. Our prices are based on the needs and requirements of the customer. A basic single unit costs $X while we have developed customer enterprise-wide solutions for $Y. We'll be able to give you a more specific quote once we know your needs.

Fail to answer prospect questions upfront in a straightforward, transparent manner and you'll fail to earn their trust, and possibly a call from the prospect.

By the way, when the prospect does call, or send an inquiry, answer the phone or respond immediately.

Companies that respond in five minutes, or less, are 100-times more likely to convert that lead to a qualified prospect than those that reply in 30 minutes. Fewer than 37% of companies respond within the hour.

This will improve as companies realize the importance of immediate response. Are you prepared to make the commitment to improve?

In the age of the internet, use content to establish awareness, thought leadership, trust, traffic and leads. Then be prepared to follow-up on those leads the moment they come in. 

Let me know if you need any help developing a content marketing strategy that will generate trust, awareness, traffic and leads.

Click Here for an Evaluation of Your Website

Tags: transparency, trust, integrity, earn your customers trust, information of value

7 Steps to Accelerate Sales and Profits

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jan, 29, 2014 @ 10:01 AM

steps to accelerating sales and profits

 

 

 

 

 

 

We're nearly a month into the new year.

How are your new business initiatives going?

Need some additional horsepower to generate awareness, traffic and qualified leads?

How about additional revenue from exisiting customers?

Try some of the following:

  1. Blog. Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors. The more frequently you post a blog, the more traffic you will generate. 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day have acquired a customer through their blog. Every blog you post adds a page to your website giving you another opportunity to be found and increasing your SEO performance.

  2. Expand your product/service portfolio. People buy from those they know, like and trust. So who are your best prospects? Your current customers. Learn about their needs and wants and fulfill them with complementary products or services. Zappos started just selling shoes. Now they sell shoes, everything related to shoes, as well as sporting goods, cosmetics and accessories.

  3. Develop strategic alliance and referral partners. Referrals are still the most powerful and effective form of marketing; however, today a lot more referrals are made online by strangers. Leverage relationships with your vendor partners to share leads and recommend B2C or B2B clients to one another depending on what business you are in, respectively.

  4. Add more price points. Give the customer what they want at the price you want. By adding an infinite number of price points, you end up leaving less money on the table and increasing your profitability. Every customer wants something different. They want what they want, their way. Terrific. Give them what they want and charge them for giving them what they want their way. Develop a pricing model that accounts for every different way the customer may want your product or service. Yes, this is an "evergreen" model since your customers will always be wanting something different -- and better.

  5. Actively participate in social media. Build awareness of your brand by sharing information of value in an open and transparent way. Answer questions openly and honestly. You'll build credibility and trust for you and your brand.

  6. Hire a marketing professional. Yes I am a marketing professional. It's what I went to school and got a degree in. It's what I've done for 30+ years. I know it looks easy and you think you know what your customers want; however, based on having worked with more than 80 clients you very likely don't. Who in your company represents the customer? Do you know why your customer thinks your product is "different and better" than the competition? Do you know who your customer sees as your competition? You won't know until you ask. Also, a marketing professional understands the importance of presenting the brand in a consistent way. Any inconsistency confuses the customer and confusion breeds distrust. If you can't afford a full-time marketing professional, hire one by the hour.

  7. Deploy an inbound marketing strategy. I was an outbound marketer for 25 years; however, the internet and social media have flipped the customer as buyer dynamic and now the customer defines your brand for you. You can help them by providing information of value that informs them, rather than selling them, and earning their trust. If you haven't seen Marcus Sheridan's Ted Talk, I recommend taking 12 minutes to watch it. You'll understand the importance of honesty, integrity and transparency in everything you do.
What steps are you taking to accelerate revenue and profit?
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Tags: transparency, trust, integrity, earn your customers trust, information of value, accelerate sales, consumer insights accelerate sales, be relevant

How to Tell Stories That Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Dec, 17, 2013 @ 06:12 AM

stories create emotional connections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories are a great way to get your brand message across.

People remember, and repeat, stories far more than features and benefits.

In order for your story to be effective, it must make an emotional connection with the listener, ideally your target audience.

The way to make this emotional connection is to know what your customers and prospects need and want.

You find this out by asking them.

Ideally your story is founded in the vision and mission of your firm.

It must also be true. Authenticity and transparency is critical.

Once you have your story, it's important that everyone in the organization learn it and tell it the same way. This consistency is necessary to build trust with customers and prospects alike.

Inconsistency builds distrust.

As the director of corporate marketing for a management consulting and investment banking firm, I was able to craft a story about the founder, Doc Fails, and how he set out to make the inherently unsophisticated business professionals in his industry more professional and business savvy.

Doc started by doing their taxes. Then he provided financial advice and business guidance based on what he had learned doing their taxes.

Doc understood the importance of earning his clients' trust and did so.

Over time, he helped his clients with their finances, hiring, management practices, marketing, project management, customer service, doing business with integrity, etc.

Doc helped make his clients a lot of money and build businesses that would succeed long after the founders retired.

That's when Doc, and his team, really started generating revenue, when these business owners, asked him to help sell their business.

Today, 60 years later, that company employs more than 300 consultants and investment bankers and generates more than $40,000,000 in annual revenue thanks to the vision and mission of Doc Fails.

What's your story?

Does it resonate with prospects and customers?

Is it sufficiently compelling that they are sharing it with others?

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: trust, integrity, consistent messaging, authenticity, connecting emotionally with customers

Trustability, Trustworthiness, Integrity and Ethics

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 23, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

Trustability, Trustworthiness, Integrity and Ethics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great webinar by Don Peppers, founding partner of the Peppers & Rogers Group, entitled "Transparency, Trust and Customer Feedback."

Some interesting technology factoids:

  • 25 million+ Google searches are taking place every hour -- 24 x 7
  • Supply of technical information is doubling every two years
  • Younger generation consider email old-fashioned
  • One of every eight couples (12.5%) getting married in the U.S. first met online

To be successful in today's marketplace, you must have a relationship, based on trust, with your customer.  You achieve this by:

  • Addressing customers as individuals
  • Providing value and meeting the individuals' needs
  • Interacting and serving them in a cost and time-efficient way
  • Customizing your behavior, offerings and communications so they are relevant to the individual
  • Obtaining feedback that provides customer insights based on customer experience

We are in an age of transparency.  According to a survey by Forrestor:

  • 83% of consumers trust the recommendations of their friends; as such, referrals continue to be critical to business success
  • >50% trust online recommendation from complete strangers -- no hidden agendas
  • 14% trust advertising

The most important quality in any human interaction is trust.  If the relationship is going to flourish, trust is a key element of the relationship.

Trust must be based on empathy, not just profits.  Empathy means taking the customer's point of view and doing what's right by them, not taking advantage of them.

Don provided a great example when he went to order a book from Amazon and the website asked him if he was sure he wanted to buy the book since he had already purchased a copy.

Amazon.com gave up short-term revenue and profit to gain long-term trust.

When will banks begin warning you before they charge you an outrageous overdraft fee?

How about phone and cable companies that keep you in a rate plan that is not in your best interest based on a known history of use?

Not to mention pharmaceutical companies making inconsequential changes in medications to keep your doctor prescribing the ethical (oxymoron?) product versus the generic with a 10x price difference.

The list of companies who take advantage of customers rather than helping them make the right decision for their particular situation is very long.

What are you and your company doing to enhance the trust your customers have in you, your products and your services?

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Tags: Trustworthiness, Ethics, integrity, earn your customers trust, Trustability