Blog

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?

 

Download the Free e-book

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

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'

Use Content Calendars to Improve Your Content Marketing Efforts

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Nov, 20, 2014 @ 12:11 PM

content marketing

 

 

 

 

 

Great presentation by Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures, at Internet Summit 2014 (#isum14).

 

Arnie conducted a content marketing workshop in which he shared a couple of keys to improving your content marketing.

 

Content calendars -- by year and by month.

 

If you have not put together your plan for 2015 yet, get your marketing, sales and customer service teams together before the end of the year and go through the following process.

 

For the annual calendar identify by month:

  • Business quarter focus or goal
  • Selling cycles
  • Seasons
  • Holidays
  • Events -- national, industry specific, company specific
  • Product launches
  • Deadlines
  • Company goals
  • Metrics -- what are the definitions of success of your content marketing efforts?

 

For the montly calendar by day list:

  • Title or description of the content to be produced
  • Status
  • Due date
  • Publish date
  • Type of content (blog post, ebook, white paper, infographic, FAQ, video, testimonial, case study)
  • Producer/designer
  • Editor
  • Target audience/persona
  • Distribution channels for the content produced
  • Promotion
  • Metadata tags
  • Metrics to be measured daily, weekly and monthly

 

By getting everyone in the room you will accomplish a couple of things:

  1. You'll generate enough ideas for content that will last you an entire year.
  2. You'll be inculcating and content marketing and generation mindset among others in the company who will begin to see content opportunities where they had not seen them before.

If you need a facilitator for your content calendar meetings, let me know. I'm happy to help.

 

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

Tags: trust, information of value, consistent messaging, content marketing, content

Guest Blog: What to Do When Your Social Media Campaign Backfires

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Nov, 13, 2014 @ 12:11 PM

NYPD twitter fail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NYPD Effect: What to Do When Your Social Media Campaign Backfires

 

Almost everyone uses social media. More than 70% of Internet users are involved in at least one of the major social media networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram – or even all of them. [http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/]

 

Using social media for branding and customer engagement often is paved with good intentions, but it doesn’t always assure that everything is going to work out well.

 

Take, for example, what happened to the New York Police Department (NYPD) in April 2014, when it tried to establish itself as a brand and engage its customers on Twitter. [http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/22/tech/nypd-twitter-fail/]

 

NYPD is one of the major police forces in the country that have been working hard to improve community involvement. Aside from setting up its own Twitter account, it also launched a campaign early this year inviting people to upload and tag a photo with an NYPD police officer with the hashtag #mynypd. [https://twitter.com/NYPDnews]

 

Well, it didn’t really turn out as planned, where photos of NYPD officers interacting with community members in a positive light would be uploaded and tagged, because within only a few hours after the campaign’s launch, the hashtag went viral for all the wrong reasons: people started uploading a variety of pictures showing NYPD police officers in compromising situations (e.g., depicting harassment and brutality).

 

Worse, other police departments got involved as Twitter users tagged their officers in photos depicting negative circumstances, too.

 

It turns out that the NYPD effect happens far too many times, particularly on Twitter with its millions of active users all around the globe and where trends can be monitored in real time and easily go viral.

 

Similar fiascos have happened to some well-known corporate entities including McDonald’s, Amy Baking Company and even celebrities like Robin Thicke. [http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/01/24/mcdstories-when-a-hashtag-becomes-a-bashtag/], [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/amys-baking-company-kitchen-nightmares_n_3274345.html], [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/10937764/Robin-Thickes-Twitter-disaster-the-best-of-AskThicke.html].

 

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, what should you do?

 

  1. Don’t let it run for too long. If there’s one good thing about social media failure, it’s that you can see its effect within hours. Thus, you always have the option to end it as soon as possible, which is definitely suggested.

  2. Avoid feeding on the trolls. Trolls are Internet users that love to ignite heated discussions and arguments with the brand and/or among its followers through posting offensive, hurtful, below-the-belt comments and inflammatory media such as photos or videos. Trolls are growing by astonishing numbers [http://www.bustle.com/articles/45430-online-trolling-statistics-reveal-almost-one-third-of-millennial-americans-admit-to-being-internet-trolls], so you need to be very careful in how you deal with them:

    * Don’t respond to anything offensive. That’s what trolls want you to do. Remember that. 

    * Block them immediately from your social media account. This way, your other followers won’t see their remarks, and they have no other means of communicating with you unless they create a new account. 

    * Take legal action. If you feel that their comments are untrue and are hurting the brand, do know that you can always take an appropriate legal action, but be discreet about it.


  3. Take control of the situation. Apologize if you have offended users with your campaign or strategy, even if that wasn’t your intention. You can never fault other people’s feelings or perceptions about an issue. Deal with the trolls, but respond to certain serious concerns and questions. Pick one social media person to maintain consistent feedback to your followers.

     
  4. Use it to your advantage. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Tell your followers that you appreciate all feedback, whether good or bad, and that all feedback can be used to improve your product or service. Then follow through with action on that feedback so that your followers can see that you have put your words into practice. This builds trust.

 

Social media teaches brands a very painful and hard lesson: you can’t please everyone. There will be hundreds or even thousands who will taunt and say something bad about your brand on a daily basis. The keys to surviving any kind of social media backfire are to be objective, maintain a positive, calm mind and act upon the lessons you learn.

 

About the Author
This article was provided by our friends at Fluid Review. As a leader in the cloud-based application management sphere, hundreds of organizations use FluidReview to make better decisions in their scholarship, grant and fellowship programs.

Tags: trust, be reliable, be responsive, be real, authenticity, social media

3 Keys to Lead Generation

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Nov, 03, 2014 @ 10:11 AM

3 keys to lead generation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

 

There are three keys communication that will help you generate more leads:

 

  1. Provide information of value
     
  2. Be consistent

  3. Be relevant

 

Providing information of value, not selling, builds awareness and trust of your products, services and company, as well as establishing you as a trusted-advisor on the subject about which you are sharing.

 

Start by answering all of your customers' and prospects' questions openly and in a transparent manner. Doing so will help establish you and your firm as someone who want to help solve a problem rather than just sell something.

 

What problem do you solve? How do you do it? How much does it cost? What are the benefits? What are the downsides?

 

By answering someone's question before they even ask you the question, you are saving them time and making their life easier. If you save someone time, or make their life easier, they're more likely to be a loyal, and long-term, customer.

 

Consistency is key. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency confuses people which leads to distrust.

 

Ensure all of your communications, across all channels, are consistent -- the same information, the same tone.

 

I strive to be genuinely helpful by sharing information I think will be of value to business owners and marketing professionals.

 

Be relevant. This can be difficult if you're inwardly focused. It's much easier if you are customer-centric.

 

Find out what your customers and prospects have questions about and answer those questions.

 

Ask your sales force and your customer service reps what the objections, issues and questions they hear most frequently.

 

Map the customer journey identifying the questions received and the information needed at each step of the journey. Once you've done this, don't forget to share your journey maps and questions with customers for validation. 

 

By providing information of value that's consistent and relevant, you will drive greater awareness, traffic and leads while establishing you, and your brand, as trustworthy.

 

What questions can I answer for you about sharing information of value?

 

Click Here to Download Your Lead Generation eBook

 

Tags: transparency, trust, be real, information of value, alignment, consistent messaging, be relevant

10 Ways Manufacturing Companies Benefit from Marketing Automation

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Oct, 16, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

marketing automation for manufacturing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the past few years I've helped several manufacturing companies implement marketing automation solutions to improve their business and their marketing.

 

To date, 20% of larger companies (500+ employees) are using marketing automation, while firms with 20+ employees have a 4% adoption rate. 

 

Following are 10 benefits manufacturing companies can realize by using marketing automation:

 

  1. Save time. You can create marketing campaigns and posts for different products and target audiences ahead of time and schedule to run once the customer or prospect takes an action in the future.

    For example, if you're attending a tradeshow and having people visit your booth, you can have an automated message go out each evening when the show closes thanking them for coming by the booth and inviting them to reconnect if they need more information on a particular product.

  2. Ability to provide personalized, targeted relevant information to clients and prospects when and where they need it.

    If a channel partner needed a case study for an end-user customer, you are able to provide it instanteously.

  3. Marketing staffs are able to get more done in less time. One employee can execute complex and ongoing campaigns that can connect with many more customers and prospects than is possible to do manually.

    Marketing automation is very scalable and allows you to grow your business without the commensurate growth in your marketing department.

  4. Ensures consistent messaging across time and channels. You're able to ensure that all of your graphic standards are met as well as delivering consistent, relevant messages to the right target audience. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency breeds confusion and distrust.

    This capability is particuarly important if the company is going through a brand identity change as one company I worked with was doing.

  5. You receive detailed reports on the performance of each campaign by channel so you know what's working and where improvements can be made.

  6. You are able to A/B test different elements of a campaign like who an email is coming from, the subject line, the offer, the layout, the call-to-action, the landing page and the images.

    One marketing automation platform even enables you do do A/B/C/D testing.

  7. A tremendous benefit for manufacturing firms with sales forces or channel partners is the ability to score leads.

    Marketing and sales must sit down and agree upon what constitutes a marketing qualified lead (MQLs) versus a sales qualified lead (SQLs) and how the MQL is best nurtured into an SQL.

    This must be constantly monitored so the scoring and nuturing process can be refined over time.

  8. You are able to learn more about your customers and profiles through progressive profiling.

    By integrating your CRM and your marketing automation software, you are able to prepopulate forms for website visitors. This lets visitors know you know them and keep track of their valuable information. It also enables you to ask more relevant questions so you can better qualify them over time.
     
  9. You build a repository of marketing elements, supported by data, so your marketing team is not "reinventing the wheel" every time a campaign is needed.

    You also know what has worked in the past when a new campaign is needed.

  10. According to Aberdeen, firms that use marketing automation improve lead conversion 107%, have a greater average deal size of 40%, have a 20% higher attainment of quota and 17% beter forecast accuracy.

 

Is your manufacturing firm using marketing automation to increase productivity and sales?

 

If not, let me know if I can help you identify the right marketing automation platform for your firm.

 

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

 

Tags: trust, consistent messaging, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, content, MQL, SQL, marketing automation, call to action

10 Ways Professional Service Firms Benefit from Content Marketing

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 07, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

content marketing for professional services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've had the opportunity to work on the client-side for, and on the agency-side with, a number of professional services firms including accountants, lawyers, consultants and financial advisers.

 

All of these firms, and the professionals that make up these firms, will reap multiple benefits from content marketing.

 

Here are 10:

 

  1. Build awareness of the firm and the professionals by sharing information of value, case studies and testimonials on a regular basis via blog posts on your website and in the social media channels where your clients and target prospect frequent.

  2. Provide a service, and build trust, by answering clients' and prospects' questions in an open, honest and transparent way. Make the buying journey easier by answering questions before they are asked or suggesting ways prospects should be evaluating a firm like yours.

  3. Gain trust by being an unbiased source of information in your area(s) of expertise. Be the first person, or firm, someone thinks of when they think of the services you provide.

  4. Become recognized as the thought-leader in the industry by addressing and raising relevant topics of interest and sharing your unique point-of-view on the issue.

  5. Drive traffic to your website via inbound marketing by having the appropriate calls-to-action on the information of value you are sharing.

  6. Generate leads for your firm and your professionals by providing more detailed information of value on your website or landing pages.

  7. Start a relationship and dialog with a potential client who has a need for the services which you offer when they respond to information you have shared.

  8. Nurture marketing qualified leads, with information of value before pursuing them as sales qualified leads. This will make the sales process much more productive for everyone.

  9. Improve grassroots SEO by generating more keyword optimized content on your website. You will be crawled more frequently by the search engines since your website is constantly growing and you'll be found more often since your site will have more relevant keywords.

  10. Drive sales. More visits = more leads. More leads = more sales.

 

A professional services firm has a lot of information of value to share with prospective customers -- from the solutions you have provided previous customers to the answers to questions that have been asked by your current prospects and customers.

 

The key is collecting, documenting and sharing the information of value.

 

If you need any help, please let me know and I'll be happy to put together a content marketing plan that will help you and your firm reap the benefits fo your knowledge.

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, customers for life, trust, information of value, content, call to action

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

5 Steps to Omnichannel Marketing and Customer Service

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 05, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

omnichannel marketing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great article by Perry Simpson in a recent edition of Direct Marketing News entitled "5 Ways to Evolve Your Marketing to Omnichannel."

 

 

I wanted to share the five steps and comment on them as well as share several points made in the article:

  • According to the Rightnow Customer Experience Impact Report, 89% of customers say they have stiopped doing business with a company after one poor customer experience.

  • Omnichannel marketing, and customer service, is the fundamental practice of providing a seamless marketing experience across multiple channels.

  • Marketers need to ask themselves, what can we do to simplify the lives of our customers and make them more loyal.
The more you can do to save your customers time and simplify their lives, the more loyalty you will earn.
We all know the frustration of having to repeat our information to different service reps on the same call or reenter data when we are dealing with online forms or chat.
What are you doing to make the lives of your customers and clients easier?
Here are the five steps:
  1. Think holistically. Think about the entire customer experience. Map it. Identify the gaps in service that exist between the silos of your organization. It's becoming more common for customers to complete a single transaction acrosss multiple channels. If you don't have a 360-degree view of the customer, you will not be able to provide a seamless, simple, transaction.

  2. Build collaboration. Silos exist in all organizations. It's important to collaborate across silos to identify what a seamless customer experience is and to make the commitment to everyone in the organization having a single view of the customer.

    While silos can still exist within the organization, data silos on customers cannot if you are committed to providing a seamless, omnichannel experience.

    You have to ensure all of the segments of the organizations can work together and share information for the good of the customer.

  3. Map the experience. Know how your customers went about becoming your customers. Sales and marketing need to sit in a room together and map the customer's buying journey and then share their findings with a few customers to ensure they haven't missed any steps or made incorrect assumptions about what the customers actually did and what they were thinking at the time.

    Do this by having one-on-one interviews with the customer about their buying process. They're more likely to provide personal insights in a one-on-one conversation versus a focus group.

    Ultimately, marketers need to define what experience they want their customers to have and then move them through the marketing and sales process in a way that's makes it easy for the customer to buy the product or service you are selling with confidence and trust.

  4. Explore low-tech solutions. Marketing automation and analytics have made omnichannel marketing more attainable. However, don't forget to engage your customers in a dialog about what works for them and what they consider to be an acceptable, as well as, an exceptional, customer experience.

    Providing an exceptional omnichannel customer experience is the best way to turn satisfied customers into "raving fans" that share their experience with friends, family, colleagues as well as all their social media "followers."
     
  5. Embrace transparency. Be real, be realiable, be responsive. Companies that provide an inconsistent customer experience acrosss channels confuse their prospects and customers.

    Consistency breeds trust. Inconsistency breeds distrust and causes your to lose leads, prospects and customers as evidenced by the opening statistic from Rightnow. 
 
What steps can you, and your firm, take to provide a seamless omnichannel experience for your customers?
The more you are able to do now, the more it will benefit your firm, and differentiate your firm from competitors, now.
Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, be reliable, be responsive, be real, consistent messaging, omnichannel marketing and customer service

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