Posts

How to Avoid the Reputation Mistakes of Lululemon

Once the darling of women across Canada and the United States for great yoga and leisure clothes, Lululemon seems to have lost its way.  First came the less than stellar quality pants, then the comments that essentially only certain women can wear their pants without issues arising, and now marketing promotions that counter concerns about skin cancer.  Lululemon is not unlike any other brand in that reputation issues do arise. The difference however, could be in how a brand responds.  So, let’ take a look at how to avoid the reputation mistakes of Lululemon.heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com, taylormadecanada.com

1.  The Argument FOR Listening to Brand Conversations

When the story first broke that Lululemon’s pants were of poor quality and actually see-through, Lululemon’s response, or lack of response was odd. At first they completely ignored their customers’ complaints and continued to promote other product in their social channels.

This only fuelled the fire and angered customers. As more people became aware of the issue, the story also grew. Playing the role of the Ostrich and burying your head in the sand does not work.

Key Take-Away:  It is hard to imagine that this commentary still needs to be shared but, apparently it does. Brands can no longer “push” their communications on customers.  Communication is a two-way street.  Therefore choosing to “not” listen is no longer acceptable business practice.  In the case of Lululemon they could have addressed the issue immediately and demonstrated to their customers that their opinion was valued. Instead it escalated out of control, the brand took a hit, as did their stock.  In the end, they were forced to respond.  Once news hits mainstream media and you are forced to respond, you have damaged your reputation.

2.  Act on Your Own.  Don’t be Forced

As someone who provides guidance to companies on PR and reputation issues, I always tell people to come forward first.  Don’t wait to be outed by the media or some other source.  If you did something wrong, admit it and have a plan to fix it.

“Key Take-Away:  Lululemon is certainly not alone in waiting to respond. I can’t put them in that category alone. There are many companies that have also done so. Most airlines, including Air Canada have had to respond to outrage as a result of actions incurred and not addressed properly.  It really comes down to doing the right thing. If you did something wrong, like United Airlines when they broke Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s guitar and then do nothing about, even with video proof, you are headed for a PR nightmare. Over and above that you have a bigger issue though. You have a cultural issue. People working for you just don’t care. You cannot fix a reputation issue without first fixing your cultural issue. This is a big take-away and one that should be looked at seriously.

3.  Test Your Messages

Sometimes we blame agencies for providing marketing materials, campaigns, etc. that result in PR nightmares.  While that does happen on occasion, as brand managers, we must take some responsibility for our brand and what we choose to do.  There is a reason that both agencies and many brands test messaging before going to market. For me personally, if I have this “I don’t know feeling” and can’t really articulate it, I know I need to test it.  Nine times out of 10 the testing comes back with results that send us back to the drawing board.

Key Take-Away:  Don’t let nagging feelings of doubt just fade away with the hopes that it will be o.k.  And, more importantly test your message. Sometimes brands are too close to the message or storyline and can miss subtle nuances that an unbiased audience will pick up immediately. Getting this information before going to market can save you time, money and embarrassment.  Lululemon might want to think about this as a go forward plan.

Now, like all Canadians, I like to see my Canadian companies succeed. I am hoping that these few missteps are just that and things will evolve and change for our much loved Lululemon!

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather.  Feel free to leave a comment, add your input or disagree with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Customer Service: What You Don’t Know Does Hurt You

We are all customers.  We are.  So, I am not sure what happens from the time we leave our homes until we reach our respective workplaces. For some people they clearly forget what it is like to be a customer.  For others, they don’t. And for the latter ones, we are most grateful.  Today I want to look at one company and two very different experiences I had.  One not so good and one fantastic.  Both are learning experiences for others.  So, good customer service is important and what you don’t know does hurt you, your corporate reputation and impacts the trust that your customers have.

heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com, taylormade solutions, marketing best practices

Image courtesy of www.rabehardware.com

Think Before You Act

Last week I received my monthly bill from my telephone and internet service provider. Immediately I noticed that the bill was significantly higher than normal. On top of that I had a late fee. As I looked closer it “appeared” that I only paid for part of my bill. I knew that was not the case. So, just to ensure I was not loosing my mind, I pulled out the previous bill. Sure enough, the amount showing as paid on my current bill was the total amount owing from the previous month. Now, I should note that when I received the previous bill I recall that it was lower than normal. Regardless, I paid the full amount owing and went on my merry way.

So, naturally I called the customer service department for my provider and relayed my story. I also asked why I was being charged a late fee when I paid my bill in full.  The person on the phone was great. She was professional and helpful. I can’t take that from her. I could also hear that she was perplexed. She could see that I had done exactly as I had told her. She had to put me on hold to investigate further. Again, very professional and I take no issue with her performance. When she came back on the line, she informed me that the mobility part of the business had failed to get their billing information in on time and therefore, that part of the billing could not be included. Fair enough and I acknowledged that I did recall that the bill was lower than normal.

“My exception to this issue is that the company – “they”- failed to get their billing information in on time in order to be included in my monthly bill.  I paid what I was billed – in full. So, why was I being charged a late fee for their failure to perform?  “They” knew that they had failed, but yet “they” didn’t take that into account.  I also realize that things are system generated, BUT and there is a BUT, I also know that they could have manually adjusted the bill if their system was not intelligent to recognize that the previous bill sent was paid in full.

Now, not everyone checks their bills as closely as I.  Many would not have even noticed. It wasn’t even a lot of money. It was less than $10. It was the principle of the matter though. I should not have been charged and I should not have had to call. It is incidents like these quite frankly that cause me to check my bill carefully. Sadly this is not the first time that I have found errors in my bill. This naturally affects my trust.

Key Take away:  Be sure to staff your contact centres with great people who get customer service AND ensure that if you make a mistake in billing that you don’t penalize your customers. Address before sending out your bill.  This will help maintain trust rather than risk eroding the belief that you have the ability to accurately charge your customers.

Be a Great Listener

Now, let’s switch gears. This past week Tropical Storm Arthur decided to pay a visit. My little part of the world had never quite had a storm like this. It alone is a blog post. But the damage done was significant. I was without power, water and landline phone service for more than five days. I have never experienced this. When our power returned, all our other services immediately worked too, except our landline. After about 12 hours of the phone not working, I did a Tweet to our local news radio asking if they heard anything about restoration of telephone services. A follower @mentioned, Bell Aliant my provider, and within a few hours they jumped into the conversation asking me to Direct Message (DM) them with the details. Turns out it was an issue with my phone and they could do a reset from their office. Thankfully it was a quick fix and we were back in service.

“And, they checked back with me via Twitter to make sure that everything was good. I appreciated that and I appreciated that they were actually listening. In my opinion not enough companies do this so. They also offered a quick survey to review and rate their Twitter Customer Service.  This is GREAT customer service. Well done!

 Key Take Away: Be a great listener.  Be sure to leverage and use social media properly so that you can hear conversations about your brand and jump in when appropriate.  Many customers, like me, live on social media.  And, “sometimes” it is easier and faster to get results.  Be sure to follow up with your customer to ensure that the issue is resolved and then ask for feedback. You can’t improve if you don’t know how you are really performing.

Like this post?  Feel free to follow me on Twitter.

The Influencer Series – An Interview with Mark Schaefer

This week the Influencer Series speaks with Mark W. Schaefer, a globally-recognized blogger, speaker, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs for one of the top marketing blogs of the world. Mark also has written four best-selling books including The Tao of Twitter (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world) and Return On Influence,which was named one of the top business titles of the year by the American Library Association. His latest book is called Social Media Explained: Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend.  So, let’s get started!The Influencer Series, heather-anne maclean, taylormadecanada.com

Heather:  On your website, you speak of trust.  Specifically you say people follow you because they trust you.  Trust is clearly important to you.  How do you think trust has changed over the last three years as a result of all scandals and misguided commentary or social posts from brand channels in the digital sphere?

 Mark:  I don’t think “trust” has changed and I don’t think our expectation of trust has changed. In fact, trust has been an expectation of those we work with since the beginning of time. And I don’t think we should confuse a company making a mistake (which they all do) with a fundamental culture that inhibits trust.

 New research from Pew shows that Millennials are the least trusting generation in history. They can easily sniff out a fake in 140 characters or less : )   So I do think enabling radical trust is a key to survival in this world.

Heather:  Based on your experience, why is it that so many brands are failing to really leverage the power of social media to build trust and influence?

 Mark:  I don’t know for sure but I have a theory. Many CMOs charged with leading a marketing department probably really cut their teeth in the business before social media was really as relevant as it is today. So they weren’t immersed in it, and many just don’t understand it. I see this so often at companies big and small and that was why I wrote the new book “Social Media Explained.” I get the same questions over and over again. So here are the answers!

 I also think many ad agencies are not equipped strategically or organizationally to handle the social media shift, which contributes to the problem too.

 Heather:  Speaking of influence, who do you think really holds the power base of influence?  Big brands, Paid Influencers, such as bloggers or Citizen Influencers? And why?

 Mark: It depends. Look, people with a lot of money to spend will usually have an edge. That’s a fact of life.

 But I also point out in my book Return On Influence that we do have this amazing, historically-important opportunity for every person, every company, every brand to build legitimate influence by creating content that moves through the Internet. I certainly have influence through my content. Will I be as powerful as Nike? No. So it’s all relative.

 A paid influencer is really just the modern day equivalent of somebody wearing one of those big sandwich signs. It might look cute at first but eventually you kind of ignore it. The real trick is to identify and nurture organic advocates and that is a long-term proposition that requires patience. Most companies don’t have patience. They have quarterly sales goals, which is why they fail miserably at influence marketing programs. 

Heather:  With social media being mainstream, content marketing being used by everyone and their pet, what do you think that marketers should be focusing on next to get a leg up on the competition?  Or, put another way, what do you think marketers are failing to do and should be doing?

Mark:  That’s a pretty big question. Let me try to answer it as simply as I can. First, most companies do not understand social media marketing. They are checking a box. Second, marketing is math, and becoming more so month by month. Whoever can master the analytics will win. Finally, keep an eye on the fundamentals. Don’t be blinded by the shifts and changes on the Internet.

I want to thank Mark for taking the time to be interviewed and a part of my blog.  It says a lot about his commitment and willing to help others!

Like this post?  Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter and follow me @MacLeanHeather

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Subscribe to TaylorMade Solutions Newsletter’ type=’radio’ required=’1′ options=’Yes’/][contact-field label=’New Field’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][/contact-form]

An Interview with C.C. Chapman – The Influencer Series

Influencer Series, heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com

C.C. Chapman

I recently had a chance to check in with C.C. Chapman, Storyteller, Explorer & Humanitarian to talk about some of the changes that we are seeing in marketing industry.  Specifically we discussed influence and trust – two areas of great interest to many of us.  So, grab a cup of coffee and take some time to check out what C.C. shares with us in the Influencer Series.

MacLean:  The industry has certainly changed over the last five years. In the last two years in particular however, the changes have been pretty prolific in terms of the numbers of people using social networks, changing platforms and businesses trying to leverage social to their advantage.  Despite all of this change, what do you consider the most important changes and why?

C.C.:  “I don’t believe there is one single thing, but since you asked I’d have to say it is the smart phone.

Just a few years ago you’d still find many users with a phone that couldn’t take advantage of everything we take for granted now. But, the days of a flip phone are long gone and now everyone is carrying around a full production studio in their pockets.

They assume that they can pull it out of their pocket and interact with any brand they want to. They share great and horrible experiences immediately and rightfully assume that the brand is listening.

This is causing shifts in every corner of business and will continue to evolve.”

MacLean:  How important do you think trust is for both personal and professional brands?   And, do you think that people are putting enough focus on building trust?

C.C.: “I think it is crucial. I grew up in small town New Hampshire and we did business with people we trusted.

Today, I don’t care how big a business is, customers want to feel like they can trust them.

Businesses are not focusing enough on this. Sure, you must have a good product or service first, but after that even if a product is a bit more expensive, customers will buy from the one they have some form of relationship with and trust is very important here.

There are businesses that I’ll never buy from again based on things they’ve done or said. Doesn’t matter how good or cheap their product is.”

MacLean:  With your new book, 101 Steps to Making Videos Like a Pro, where do you think video is going and are there limitations as to how brands should be using video?

C.C.: “Zero limitations on how a brand should be using any technology if it makes sense to them and their customers.

Video is a great medium because humans love to consume it. As bandwidth gets better and better, we can now watch videos on our phones wherever we are.

Blows my mind that every company doesn’t have a video demo of their product. Eagle Creek is one of my favorite brands and they have simple, but informative videos of each of their products. Being able to see their luggage beyond images is important in my buying decision. 

When a customer is buying products online, video will help them get a better feel for the product. it is vital.

Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff and I wrote the book because we wanted a concise guide that could help anyone get started with video. We saw too many people thinking they could just whip out their phone and shoot something. We both know that you can do this, but we also know that planning and production are important too.” 

heatherannemaclean.wordpress.comMacLean: You are clearly recognized as an Industry Influencer.  Where do you think that we are headed with Influencers? (Influencer is a term that is being thrown about in a lot of different capacities today.  Many people use “influencer” to describe people that blog, have a good following and they pay to write about their brand.  I however, am referring to the more traditional definition of a person who has industry expertise, lives, speaks and writes about their industry.

C.C.:  Influencers have always been around. The difference is that today the social nature of the web empowers more people to be influential to a wider audience. 

I hope brands and agencies will begin to realize that while a large audience is definitely helpful, that true influence can’t be measured by a number or score.

Stop and think about the people who are influential in your life. I know that you’ll have people who influence your technology decisions, career moves and something as simple as what to cook for dinner. That is real influence, not some Klout score or other measurement number.”

MacLean: Do you think that there will be a new role emerge with respect to Influencers? There are many companies now that target “influential bloggers” for pay in order to get them to write positive blogs, whereas I position you and others like you in a different class.  To me I see you more as the real thought-leaders and people who actually can influence others.  I would go somewhere to hear you speak versus some of the bloggers being targeted.

C.C.: “Brands have always wanted to get their products in the hands of people that they think would influence others to buy their products. While the tactics may have changed, this certainly never will and it makes sense.

I get sent a lot of products to review and invited to press trips and influencer events. I always make it clear that I can’t promise a good review or a review at all because sometimes what shows up in my mailbox has no interest to me at all.

The most influential people know this. They are busy. They have a lot on their plate. They write and create around things that get their attention. 

All that being said, I have been part of several long term influencer/advocate programs and in the best ones they do compensate the members in some form. This isn’t in exchange for positive reviews, but for honest use, mentions and sharing around the products. They are also long term because while I may write a blog post about a great weekend with a brand, over time and the more I use something they more I’m going to naturally talk about it.

Also, my advice for brands looking to work with influencers is to insure that experiences are part of the equation as well. Giving me a camera to try out is cool, but giving me that camera and bringing me to a beautiful location to shoot with it is even better. It instantly puts an influencer in a situation where they couldn’t imagine creating and sharing their thought about the product right there.”

MacLean:  How do you think that being an influencer impacts your brand and positions you as a thought-leader and a person who is trust-worthy?

C.C.:  “You certainly have some interesting questions.

Me being trust worthy is in my DNA and who I am. I’m a person and not a brand.

Ever word I write, photo I share and company I work with shares something about me to the world. Over the years people have looked to me for my knowledge and experience and I’ve worked hard to make sure that I’m constantly helping others. Does that give me influence? It certainly does, but I never wake up and think, “ok lets make me more influential today.” I know there are people who create with that motivation, but it has never appealed to me.”

MacLean:  Have you ever declined an invitation to speak at, or participate in an event because the values of the event/organization/person didn’t align with yours?  If so, without giving up names/details that would reveal who it was, can you give some context of the why?

C.C.: “I have done both. In most cases it is because how they’ve treated other people I care about.

In the speakers world, we share when an event screws us over or doesn’t treat us very well. It is amazing how many events out there have no respect for their speakers and that gets around very quickly.

Same goes for brands. I can think of several opportunities that I’ve politely declined based on their actions in the past. It doesn’t happen often, but I can think of a few examples. There is also definitely a list of brands that I’d never work with because of what they do and say.” 

MacLean:  Based on your knowledge, experience and expertise, what else can brands be doing to build trust?  Are there other forms of digital media that should help with this?

C.C.: “It really boils down to treating every customer with respect. Listen to their complaints and help in every way possible. You can’t always fix the issue, but making sure they know that they are valued and heard goes a long way.

Make sure that no matter what channel it is, that if you are there, that you are really there and active. You don’t get to choose what channels your customers are going to reach out on. You can direct them to the best ones for you, but in the end it is up to them.

Work every day to keep your current customers happy and to make new ones feel welcomed. This isn’t a technology issue, but a human one.”

Well, there you have it.  C.C.as always brings great perspective and down-to-earth commentary.  As I embark on another significant research area – focusing on influence and trust, C.C.’s insights really resonate with me. I am sure that you will feel the same.

I want to thank C.C. for taking the time to answer my questions.  I am always amazed by the kindness and willingness of our industry’s greatest contributors who are so willing to share  and help others.

3 Tips on How HGTV’s Timber King’s Conquered the World

In Part 1 of this two part series, I interviewed Bryan Reid Senior, founder of Pioneer Log Homes and learned how passion, people and relationships built this world class business.  In this post, we will learn about Joel Roorda, one of the brilliant craftsmen of Timber Kings and the 3 proven tips on how HGTV’s Timber King’s conquered the world. HGTV Timber Kings Conquered the World

If there is one thing I learned from interviewing Bryan and Joel, its that these guys love what they do.  It all starts with passion.   If that is the only thing that readers take away from these two blog posts, I think that is a great.  However, we can learn some very important things from them to be truly customer-centric.  These guys just aren’t just Timber Kings, they are royalty when it comes to understanding the customer.  So, let’s jump into what I learned from Joel.

1. Listening is An Art Form

There are tons of business books and even courses that tell us that we need to be good listeners to be successful.  Listening is work.  Regardless of what people say, listening is a lot of work.  You need to focus on the individual or individuals, tune everything else out and pay attention.  Listening to Joel, I have a new respect for doing it the right way.  In fact, it is listening with your eyes, as well as your ears.  Here’s what Joel had to say about getting to know his clients:

“I always spend time before each project to learn about the client. It is my personal mission to try to satisfy each client with the style of log home that he or she is dreaming of.  Not only do I ask a lot of questions and really listen to what they are saying about everything, but I pay attention to things like what type of vehicle he or she has drives, what types of clothes they wear, etc.  These details outline the type of person they are and the type of life they live.  These are important details to match the house we build for them, to the dream they have for their house.  Like Bryan said, we aren’t just building houses, we are building dreams.”

After hearing Joel’s approach to getting to know his clients, I can certainly see why the homes he builds are so spectacular and special.  Each home is a piece of art, and as unique as the owner.  No wonder their clients come back over and over again.

2.  Building Relationships is an Extreme Sport

Again, there are tons of blog posts, books and gurus that tell us that we need to build relationships in order to be personally and professionally successful.  What these resources don’t convey however, is that building relationships is more of an extreme sport or a lifestyle.  Here’s how Joel approaches it.

“All my clients have my personal contact info, know me well and can contact me at any time. In fact, most have come to my home, spent time with my family and walked through my home.  They experience my dream of my log home and how I achieved it through hard work.”

The other thing that really impressed me about Joel is that over and above this being a lifestyle for him, you know it is authentic based on how his clients treat him.

“We work in countries all over the world and on every job I have the homeowners giving us gifts and cooking us meals.  On a recent job in Moscow, our billionaire client prepared a traditional meal for me and my crew, and then he gave me a very expensive bottle of Scotch. I truly feel blessed to meet these incredible people and to get to know them and their families.  I feel blessed that we remain great friends and I always have a place to stay, regardless of where I am in the world.”

3.  Achieving Implicit Trust Can’t Be Faked

It struck me when speaking to Joel that he and all of his colleagues are not only expert craftsman, but really, there is a lot more to what they do.  While we didn’t speak of trust specifically, Joel and all of the Timber Kings are experts at achieving implicit trust.

“I love the challenge of the big unconventional and complicated projects that are logistical nightmares. I have built homes all over the world from mountain tops to islands, secluded lots to fly in type resorts.  I truly love my job and it is actually a lifestyle.  I work a lot of long days and last year did a stint of sixty-two days straight.  I don’t need to work this much but, it drives me, and it satisfies me.  It is a great accomplishment to build a complicated home from raw logs that you shape, mould and cut to create a client’s dream home. I do not think I could do anything else, except maybe be a fishing guide for myself and Bryan.”

When you dissect what is being done when building these homes with behemoth logs and complicated structures with weights that would scare us all, it really does come down to implicit trust.  Joel and all the Timber Kings are being trusted with the most precious commodity of all – human life.  They are building dream homes for people – families, young and old.  Maybe this is a little more at the forefront for me after experiencing the winter from hell and looking out at the still present mountains of snow that normally would be long gone by now.  Maybe the recent collapses of roofs on commercial buildings and homes that are no longer safe to live in, is this part of my psyche right now, but regardless, the fact that their customers keep coming back and welcome Joel and his colleagues into their homes and lives is completely indicative of implicit trust.  That can’t be faked!

I sincerely want to thank both Bryan and Joel for taking the time to answer all my questions – it was a true East-West Canada Connection – From New Brunswick to British Columbia.  I can’t wait for the next season of the show to see some more spectacular homes.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

Insider Secrets to Using Emotions to Influence Buyer Behaviour

When making purchasing decisions we like to think that we are using a rational, and where warranted, an analytical approach.  Unfortunately, this is not really the case. Our emotions actually have a more signifiant impact on our buying behaviour than we realize.  Leveraging these emotions therefore, is an important component for anyone selling a product or service.  After all, consumers choose one brand over another based on an emotional response.  So, how do we leverage insider secrets and emotions to influence buyer behaviour?  Let’s explore.

Insider Secrets to Using Emotions to Influence Buyer Behaviour

Image courtesy of almigo.blogspot.com

Dr. Antonio Damasio, a renowned neuroscientist, argues that emotion is the necessary ingredient to nearly all decisions.  Of course as marketers we like to focus on the aspects of communication, advertising and marketing that influences consumer behaviour. When you actually start to analyze behaviour you can begin to understand how emotion is really at the root of the decision and on top of that, there are probably two fundamental components that really guide us.

Identity and Social Status

As human beings we are influenced by how “something” impacts us, or how something connects us to our identity and quite frankly our social status.  As individuals we might not realize that we think this way, but we do.  Really skilled marketers think about the positioning of a product or service in this capacity. We think about the image that individuals want to create when associated with a purchase.  Is he or she  smart, educated, well to do, sporty?  Or, is he or she hip, edging, etc.   At a subconscious level, all consumers want to be perceived in a certain way.

A really great example to understand emotional connection and specifically one’s identity and  the importance of social status is our choice when buying a car.  Recently Cadillac created an ad that showed its owners as successful people who have “stuff”. It suggests that working all of the time versus enjoying time off or doing things to better your community is what “it” is all about.  Then, Ford in quite the juxtaposition created their own version of the same ad giving a completely different identity and social status for those who own a Ford.  In their ad, Ford owners are working to create a cleaner, healthier community for all.  Two ads that look very similar, but have two different messages.

These two ads are a brilliant way to make the case for an emotional reaction and one’s sense of identity and social status.  Which one you choose is entirely up to you, but these marketers definitely positioned these brands for this purpose.   There is no question that you have an emotional response when you view these ads. Through my own testing, every person reacted to these ads.

Another great example is the Dove Self-Esteem campaign.  What parent wouldn’t be impacted by the power of these ads. So many girls have been negatively impacted by beauty campaigns.  The Dove campaign strives to evoke positive emotions and to take control of the message of natural and real beauty.

Great marketing really triggers an emotional response.  Great brands understand the significance of emotion, the power the influence to purchase and ultimately to trust the brand.

Emotions are powerful assets.  As consumers we often don’t realize that we have control over these assets.  As marketers we are always looking for ways to use them to influence buyer behaviour.  Next time you are about to make a purchase, stop and think about your emotional state.  Maybe it will make you think differently…maybe it won’t.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

6 Tips to Market to the Start-up Entrepreneur (& the #1 Way)

I don’t care where you are located, start-ups and the people who do start-ups – the entrepreneurs – are all the rage.  Everyone wants to be a part of the next great start-up.  And, why not?  It can be pretty damned cool working for or with a start-up.  But start-up entrepreneurs can be hard to reach.  How do marketers reach them?  Here are 6 tips to market to the start-up entrepreneur.Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 4.20.04 PM

Like all marketers I had assumptions and beliefs about what works and what doesn’t.  So, I wanted to test my theory.  I asked 20 start-up entrepreneurs to take a short survey.  I wanted to know where do they look for information, who influences them and what influences them.

6. What type of advertising do you notice

This is an interesting question in and of itself.  I didn’t ask what influences them, but rather what do they notice.

Interestingly enough in this group it was ads on buses.  In fact, 71% noticed these ads.  Online pop-up ads were second getting the attention of 43% of my sample group.  Tied for last place were ads in local newspapers and/or in newsletters.  In fact, only 14% noticed these ads.

5. Do Ads Influence Entrepreneurs?

Now, this is the question that is really important to all marketers! Are my ads influencing you?  Will I woo you to my brand versus my competitor with my clever and witty ads?  Sadly the answer is a resounding no from my sample.  Nearly 72% indicated that ads do not influence them.

4. How about trust?  Do Entrepreneurs trust our ads?

Again, I was pretty certain about what I would get for answers to this question.  In the words of Erik Qualman, only 14% of consumers trust tv ads.  My survey was more focused and 58% acknowledged that they don’t trust advertisements in general.

3. How do you feel about promotional materials (hats, t-shirts, pens, etc.)

I have my own personal feeling about promotional items and it is quite strong. For me, unless it is something amazing, I likely don’t take it.  If I have to take it and I am travelling I leave it for housekeeping.  As a marketer, I always hope that people are not like me in this regard, but they are.  In fact, 57% felt that promotional items were a waste of money.  And, most importantly marketers, not one person indicated that promotional items had any influence on them when it came to wanting to work with one brand versus another.

2. So, where do Entrepreneurs go looking for information?

Well, according to my survey nearly 72% visit blogs.  Surprisingly for me though, is that 57% also go to government sources.  Perhaps this should not be too surprising as many start-ups are seeking funding grants and programs for such things as payroll, and yup, you guessed it: marketing funds!

 1. So, what is the best way to reach Start-up Entrepreneurs and better yet, influence them?

Are you ready for it?  As a marketer if you are surprised by this, we really, really need to chat.  The #1 thing that influences the start-up entrepreneur are referrals by peers.  In this instance, entrepreneurs are not that different from the rest of us.  Check out this great survey result from marketingcharts.com.  Their results indicate that 84% of respondents trust peer results.  My survey netted 100% results.

Second to referrals were…and a drum roll and again if you are surprised, we need to talk……blogs.  Nearly 72% said that they are influenced by blogs from peers and/or experts.

Social media discussion groups were third at 43%.

So, if you want to reach and influence start-up entrepreneurs, dump the traditional marketing approach of push, push, push the message and adopt a solid content marketing strategy.  Be sure to make Influencer Relations a part of that overall strategy!

6 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2014

Every day marketers are looking for the next big thing. Knowing what will be “the” next big thing is hard to say. From experience I can say that there are a few things that I am watching very carefully this year.  In fact there are 6 marketing trends that I am watching in 2014:

Image courtesy of esol.britishcouncil.org

Image courtesy of esol.britishcouncil.org

1.  Social Media Is Part of An Integrated Solution

Since social media emerged, different disciplines have been battling to take ownership.  In 2014, I believe that most organizations will mature enough to realize that the disruption that has been experienced is throughout the organization and not just in one area such customer service or marketing.  Rather, social should and must be looked at as a part of an integrated management solution and not in a silo.

2.  Mobile is No Longer An After Thought

There is no question that I believe 2014 will be the year of mobile.  Despite this it wasn’t that long ago that companies were putting mobile second or as a next phase in their online strategy.  In fact, I can think of at least one very innovative and leading company who unfortunately opted for social to be an after thought when launching a new website. Despite warnings, the plan was not changed.  Sure enough, their customers called them out on the faux pas.  It was a lesson that they will not repeat.

3.  Second Screen Gains More Importance

Adding to the importance of mobile, the second screen is going to continue to gain prominence.  The question will be how well marketers leverage the use of second screen.  With approximately 88% of U.S. consumers using a second screen, what will be the potential impact be for online purchases, social channel conversations, etc?  There is great potential.

4.  Hyperlocal Comes Full Circle and Community Will Re-Emerge

Mobile and second screen further enhances the opportunity that is presented by being able to be hyperlocal.  In fact, with the opportunity for focusing on local markets, I believe that many organizations will come to the realization that they need to renew their focus on building and maintaining online communities.  In 2013 some companies veered away from their communities.  If they really want to leverage hyperlocal, they need to rethink that missed move.

5.  Video

Video consistently proves to be the most clickable and sharable content.  What some companies miss however is that it does not have to be the high production that we once loved.  As long as it is easel digestible people will look at it.  Think short quality content and/or messages.  Flashy high production might lead people to miss the message or question the validity of what you might be trying to accomplish.

6.  Trust/Influence

Marketers have a lot of tools in the toolbox.  What marketers will need to come to terms with sooner than later is that the average consumer is becoming harder to influence and as a result they have become less trusting of both traditional and non traditional marketing.  Marketers of all sizes and shapes will have to work harder to ensure that their actions don’t result in mistrust and lawsuits such as some that Facebook has been experiencing.

Do you agree with my observations?  What would you add to the list?

3 Ways to P!$$ Off Your Customers – Keurig Canada Customer Service #Failure

Customer service is not something that you expect some of the time.  Customers expect good customer service all  of the time – period – full stop.  Great customer service is what sets a brand apart from its competitors.  Unfortunately, some companies are failing at customer service – both traditional AND social.  Even more unfortunate is the specific epic #failure of Keurig Canada.  Here three things we can learn from this bad experience.

The Issue

For the first time I opted to buy my coffee online direct from Keurig Canada.  This is not a complicated process.  Create an account, select the coffee you want, check out and pay for it.  Check, check, check and check.  All was well up to and including the confirmation email receipt.  This email stated that I would receive another email when shipped.  Days passed, no email.  A week passed, no email.  More days passed, no email.  I checked on line.  What did I find out?  My payment was taken, but yet there was no status on my shipment.  In fact under delivery date, it said: “N/A”.  I made my original order on November 30th.  After approximately two weeks, I called.  In total I called three times.  Each time I waited on the line for close to an hour and still could not reach a human.  An option was given to leave a message.  I left a message with my name and telephone number and asking about delivery.  No one returned my call.  I emailed Customer Service as well.  No one ever responded.  I resorted to social media and did get a response and a call from the main location in the US.  Unfortunately they were unable to help.  They couldn’t see my order because I was in Canada.  They were fantastic.  In fact, I want to stress that when dealing with Keurig in the United States, their brand representatives are among the best.  I love dealing with them.  Cross the border and well, that is a different story.  Dealing with Keurig in Canada is painful at best and enough to make you rethink your coffee machine purchase.  Keurig Canada’s customer service is a failure.

So, how can your business excel at customer service – both traditional and social?  Here are 3 lessons learned from Keurig Canada’s epic #fail:

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 5.19.42 PM

1.  Understand the Brand You Represent

It is incumbent on all organizations to ensure that all employees, and particularly customer-facing employees, know and understand your brand – the brand values, voice and how to actually live the brand.  If you are going to outsource parts of your operation, this is even more important.  It only takes one person to hurt your brand and reputation.

Keurig Canada failed to understand the brand.  Their website states the following:  “Keurig” is derived from the Dutch word for excellence, which is our standard for everything, from our patented brewing technology to our gourmet brands of beverages and our customer service.”  

Keurig Canada if you believe that not returning phone calls and/or email which you specifically point your customers to as a communication channel is “being excellent,” I beg to differ.  This is NOT excellence.  Failing to keep your customer informed is a fail.

 2. Staff Your Customer Channels

There is no question that certain times of the year more busy than others.  The business cycle should not come as a surprise.  Staff for it.  Keurig in the US was able to answer and respond to calls.  Their population base is larger.  They have more customers.  They were staffed appropriately.  Jump on a plane and get schooled by the Keurig experts at your head office.  Please!

 3.  Rethink Your Processes and Actually Make Changes

Clearly there was an issue and Keurig Canada realized it.  I received notification that there was an issue with unusually high volumes and therefore they were offering a free box to make up for it.  Good on them, sorta!   This is an opportunity for a second chance.  Unfortunately, they have failed yet again.  Not only did they require that you make a minimum purchase, it has now been a week since my last order.  Guess what?  For days there was no information.  My delivery date said:  N/A.  I checked today and my order apparently shipped yesterday. I have not received the verification email that they promise.  So, the question is:  has it really shipped?  I could call or email, but based on my previous experience, I will pass.

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 10.28.14 AM

What’s Your Experience?

These three items are three easy fixes.  If you value your customers, establish processes to avoid these missteps.  The next step is mine.  Will I continue to be a Keurig user?  Or, will I sell my machine and go another route?  I am not certain just yet, but I can tell you that I am seriously evaluating next steps.

So, what is your customer service experience with Keurig?  Would you choose another coffee system?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

3 Tips to Fix Your #Failed Mobile Marketing

According to a 2013 Pew Internet study, 56% of Americans own a smart phone and 35% own a tablet.  Research from Canalys earlier this year predicted that tablet sales would increase by 59% this year.  In fact in Q3 of 2013, over a quarter of a billion units shipped worldwide.  So getting your mobile strategy right has never been more important for sales.  The C-suite no longer accepts applying outdated tactics that net poor results. (Please Click to Tweet So, here are 3 easy tips to fix your mobile marketing and sales now:

Image courtesy of businesstocommunity.com

Image courtesy of businesstocommunity.com

 1.  Understand that Most Mobile Device Use is Not Really Mobile

That’s right, the biggest mistake that marketers are making is NOT understanding how people are using their devices.  A joint study released by AOL and BBDO revealed that 68% consumer mobile phone use occurred at home.  Yes, they are using their devices at home!

Marketers need to have a two-pronged approach to reach the ‘at home market’ and the ‘on-the-go market.’  They have different needs.   There is an added level of complexity when understanding the use of tablets versus smart phones.  Marketers who succeed in mobile will be those who establish different strategies and tactics for each.

2.  Mobile Phone Use Does Not Equal Tablet Use

According to Pew, the demographics for those using tablets most include:

  • Those living in households earning at least $75,000 per year (56%), compared with lower income brackets
  • Adults ages 35-44 (49%), compared with younger and older adults
  • College graduates (49%), compared with adults with lower levels of education

In order to effectively reach tablet and smart phone users requires different approaches, particularly when it comes to advertising.  It is not a one size fits all approach.

3.  Advertising on Mobile?  Know Thy Device!

If you are still using the old “push” model of broadcasting messages in your  advertising, you are likely failing.

Marketers need to focus on micro-targeted “pull” campaigns that effectively result in the customer accepting messages. In addition to pull, Marketers need to forget banner ads.  While somewhat annoying to computer users, they are even less welcome on mobile.  They just aren’t scalable to mobile and therefore completely ineffective.

Finally it is important to know that those succeeding in the mobile market and netting sales have built relationships with customers.  Through these relationships, they have learned customer  preferences, including real-time location information.  They offer deals that result in real sales.  Starbucks for example leveraged mobile by offering a $5 credit to those who joined My Starbucks Rewards program.  This resulted in more than 500,000 downloads of the mobile app in its two-week trial period.

Take-Away Lessons:  

  1. Don’t push information.  Pull Information through offering something up to your customer or prospect.  What are the chances that someone who redeemed that $5 spent more than the credit allotted to him or her?  Probably pretty good.
  2. Understand how customers are using different devices and use appropriate tactics.
  3. Don’t annoy prospects and customers with annoying banner ads on mobile.  Be creative and delight your customers with real offerings to PULL them into your store or location.

If people thought that social media changed everything, mobile is like living inside a snow globe that someone continually shakes.  What changes are you making to your mobile strategy to accommodate for this different world?