blog: B2C

A Report on the Customer Experience Conference, CMA – 11-04-2013

Overall: an uplifting event demonstrating that customer-centric marketing has come of age, albeit rushed through teen adolescence at light-speed, by the power of social media.

Some very strong presentations and some surprises:

GO Transit wins the award for a Public Agency teaching private enterprise how to go about their business: for putting customer experience at the front of the line and driving up commuter volumes. Their customer research, segmentation and designing their brand promise entirely around the customer’s values of ‘easy’ rather than a transportation value of ‘efficient’ is as customer-centric as can be. How far apart are easy and efficient? We usually separate them with a comma − easy, efficient − it rolls off the tongue. Go-Transit learned the hard way, that when you separate ‘efficient’ from ‘easy’ an entire customer base can fall through the cracks. Great job learning that and fixing it in such a comprehensive and successful way!

1-800-Got-Junk? also rates top marks for walking the walk in customer-centric marketing. Compensating your franchisees based on the degree of positive customer feedback is a brilliant incentive, and immediately measurable through use of the net promoter score service. And then turning each high-score customer into a brand ambassador for lead-generation −very slick. If only all business models were so simple.

Other key ambassadors of integrated customer-centric business models, Porter Airlines and Miele Canada were very powerful reinforcements of the core value of the strategy.

It was very exciting to learn how Microsoft, Samsung and Canadian Tire have re-focused their energies on customer experience. If these Mega-brands in their respective markets have taken this on board, it is very encouraging to contemplate how customer-centric marketing will start to influence all aspects of delivering on the brand promise for marketers.

Most encouragingly, the conference was packed. Well done CMA for planning and hosting.

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Customer Experience: a Roadmap for Marketers

Please take a look at the Canadian Marketing Association’s most-recently published whitepaper Customer Experience: a Roadmap for Marketers. It aligns very closely to our own publications on customer-centric marketing and many of the blog posts in this site.

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PLANNING OUT YOUR PRODUCT LAUNCH

Planning Out Your Product Launch —

Avoid 3 common mistakes that could reduce your chances of success.

3 common mistakes that inventors, entrepreneurs and even experienced marketers make bringing products to market are:

  1. Falling head-over-heels in love with the idea
  2. Not properly defining the target market
  3. Under-estimating the amount of effort involved

 

These mistakes are easy to make in the excitement of launching a new product. But with good guidance and teamwork they can be avoided and your vision can translate more easily into success.

See more: http://www.hydrogencreative.com/planning-out-your-product-launch

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How does customer service fit into your marketing mix?

This question was asked by Marketing Magazine to Longo’s Grocery Chain (see the November Special Issue on Customer Service).

I didn’t get to the answer. The question short-circuited my frontal lobe so I stopped reading. Let me explain.

I have, for the past 16 years, had a mania about customer-centric marketing. I have also been a critic of brand-centric marketing. I have never had a problem selling the strategy, but I have sometimes been a bit disappointed by the casual observation that “It doesn’t look much different”.

It has been a splinter in my brain to characterize the contrast between the science of customer-centric marketing and brand marketing without reaming off thousands of words.

Don’t breathe!  I may have found a solution. I am going to reword Marketing Magazine’s question:

HOW DOES MARKETING MIX FIT INTO YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE?

(I feel a bit dizzy. Need to take a moment.)

Customer-centric marketing takes brand ego out of the equation and replaces it with brand empathy, at every touch-point. It focuses your value proposition, media execution, product delivery, customer service and relationship management on the customer’s values.

“How does Customer Service Fit into your Marketing Mix?” vs. “How does Marketing Mix fit into your Customer Service?” It is an 180 degree flip. And it is a mind-set. Perhaps you can’t see the difference until you feel the difference.

Is it easy to make the transition?
No.

Is it so obvious when you have?
It may not be so noticeable to the casual observer, but it is very significant to the target audience and to your customer retention, share of wallet, marginal cost of marketing and all those other important variables.

So, how does your marketing mix fit into your customer service?

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5 reasons why your marketing might cost more than you think

Regardless of staying inside creative, media, production, programming, and fulfilment budgets

In this article we will try to look under the hood to reveal some hidden costs and reasons why marketing projects can fail to achieve the maxim of “Quality, delivered on time and to budget”.

1. Unclear expectations

Different expectations that were not properly communicated early in the process can derail a project until everyone’s expectations are met. These delays have a significant impact on ‘time to market’.

Remedy: It is essential that all the stakeholder expectations are documented, that they are agreed upon upfront, they are reasonable and that they form the blueprint for the delivery.

2. Too much rush

Rush has become the norm. Rushing increases the risk that important details will be missed and that quality will suffer. Less time does not mean less cost. When you pay more to get less you depreciate your marketing investment.

Remedy: Rush may be unavoidable. But the stakeholders need to be flexible, to either spread or focus resources within the timeline. Workload that can be shared should be spread across the group. Specialized tasks should be handed to those with that capability. Be sure to relieve them of distractions so that they can focus on those critical tasks. It takes a collective responsibility to make sure that rush projects receive the care and attention they need to succeed.

3. Process-driven to distraction

Too much process can also drive up cost and reduce efficiency. Rush projects should not be decapitated by too much bureaucracy. Larger projects that involve more stakeholders need more process, checks and balances, but the stakeholders are not always familiar with the rules.

Remedy: Don’t apply one process map to all projects. Prepare a fast-track and an optimal process for project management, to engage each situation efficiently. Make sure that the stakeholders understand the scope and nature of the project they are undertaking and how it affects the organization so they can learn and benefit from the process instead of being bogged down by it.

4. No thought to the financial cost of delay

Most organizations equate the ‘cost of delay’ with ‘loss of potential revenue’. In fact it goes much deeper.

Use a simple equation: Divide your labour cost for each project by its timeline to calculate your cost per day of delay. Then add it to your budget for the project after final delivery to see the true cost. For example, $100,000 over 10 months, if the work continues to the 11th month you have just invested an additional $10,000 to that project and lost 1 month of potential revenue.

Your agency is also affected when paid per-project. Your agency anticipates its revenue according to the project period. Delays will affect its cash-flow even if no additional work is done. If your agency is on a retainer you could actually be paying them a bonus for your delay. These are also hidden costs to add to the equation.

When you can’t achieve your objectives within the time and resources allocated, other projects in the pipeline get deferred, stacked, or are given less attention than they need. Agencies and clients feel these effects, but they don’t usually monetize the impact on their bottom line.

Remedy: The solution is to track this and then review at appropriate intervals. When you start to measure the cost of delay and discuss their implications it brings your team closer to understand how to maximize efficiency in the future to become more productive with less effort. When you have a good audit trail to measure you might consider using bonuses as an incentive for meeting performance expectations.

5. Getting it right; but not first time

How much effort does it take to get creative that is on-strategy, and then push it to final approval? If the creative and content is not in alignment, progress can be painfully slow and require multiple revisions to get what you need. If your agency demands too much of your time to get final approval, add this to the cost of your marketing investment.

Remedy: The greatest efficiency is where all agencies are in tune with the needs of the business, with only fine-tuning required at each stage of review. If you are not achieving this then it is time to either review your team or review your agency.

Conclusion

It may require some time and some careful crafting to build a marketing engine that flows smoothly through your department and your external agencies, but the productivity rewards makes it worthwhile to build. If you are not tracking these intangible costs you won’t know which changes could reduce your overall cost of marketing.

Hydrogen Creative believes in producing the right creative, first time. We engage fluid processes to enable more success at less cost. Engage us to experience the difference and see how well we stand by these beliefs.

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TRAVERSE MARKETING

You have your product and your partners in place and core of customers that value what you offer who maintain your cash fl ow and profitability. Opportunities beckon in other markets, providing chance to duplicate your success. You scope out thepotential and speak to a few people. The board is supportive, you give it your best shot and in a few months you are seeing a sizeable return on your investment. If only it were that simple. For more see: Traverse Marketing

The 180º Right Turn

After doing a 360º About Face (see last entry) you will now be able to see yourself as your customers see you – not through your well-groomed surveys – but through their values and where and how you fit.

Which means you can make the right move (turn), to build your marketing programs and messaging from the customer’s perspective – opposite (180º) from the way you were facing in your previous marketing endeavors.

Anecdotally: I recently spoke with a senior executive in one of Dell’s divisions. Their internal retrospective critique was that Dell had focused too much on pricing in its messaging. While listening I did a quick 360º About Face and said to myself: “I didn’t buy Dell for a discount product. I bought Dell because I could get what I needed faster and to my door without paying for things I didn’t want.” In fact I don’t think I ever bought a Dell product at the advertised price. Dell’s price-point marketing reinforced to me the economy of its distribution model.

I never thought of Dell as a discounter, and I was both a consumer and business customer. All I needed from Dell was that their primary concern was to keep shovelling me with the technology I needed, faster and more cost-effectively than anyone else, and my loyalty was/is won. Marketing values reflect differently with customers, which presents the challenge of trying to pin the tail on the donkey while wearing the blindfold. Lack of line of sight is a great inhibitor.

One way to be sure you have line of sight is to stand in the place you are aiming at and look back at where you are pointing from (it works great on the golfing green). Stand on the opposite side and figure out how to make your objective reach the goal. You need this perspective before you can make the 180º Right Turn. One way to get perspective is to tune into the customer dialog while it is happening all around you. Web 2.0 publishing offers an unlimited resource for marketers to navigate a 180º right turn, (although there should be a health warning that such powerful direct feedback from customers can cause marketing whiplash in the dire haste to stem the negative feedback circulating through blogs, chatrooms and forums).

The rise of the corporate blogger needs to be more than a trend. It is a wellspring for interactive communication that is collaborative and ultimately supportive, even if the criticism can be brutal. Collaborative brainstorming sites are another face of the customer that lets marketers embrace attitudes so foreign to their internal culture you’d think they never really met face-to-face with a customer. Not all marketers can be successful in the blogsphere, as their customers often don’t rate them high enough in their priorities to take the time to engage in this sort of dialog. An alternative technique called Web Voyaging lets you tune into the voice of the customer and build an interaction that can guide you to make the right choices to build your business.

It is a methodology designed by an Interactive PR Agency partner of my studio Hydrogen Creative, and it relies on tracing 50 online communities that represent your target audience, and preparing well thought out topics or opinions and posting these to their community to gauge the response. The immediacy of the medium and the authenticity of the response is what make this a compelling technique to reach out to customers. Once you have done the 360º About Face you develop the sensitivity to hear customer feedback in the proper context. You resist making knee-jerk rationalizations of why the customer is saying the opposite of what you were hoping to hear. I am so frustrated by research companies that carefully craft questions in order that the answers are tolerable to their paying clients. If you don’t think it happens, “Ha, ha, ha, to you.”

The idea of the 180º Right Turn is to embrace with humility the reality that all the smarts you have and all the brilliance that inspires you to get up in the morning is subservient to a few terse comments from the people you need to buy your products who don’t share your sentiments about what you do best each day.

It is sometimes a painful awakening, but the good news is – once you make the turn – you get to channel all the brilliance and inspiration that you have into something that actually resonates with your customers.

Now that’s exciting.

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The 360º About-Face

I was once told that the furthest two points on a circle are right next to each other, because you have to travel the entire circumference to connect them. Sound silly? Try to draw a circle without connecting two points next to each other. You can’t do it. The paradox that the closest and furthest points of the circumference are adjacent is an interesting metaphor for how to miss or connect with customers.

As marketers we tend to look at the market through the lens of our brand, product or service and accept whatever filters through. We define the product based on its finest qualities and spin these into potential benefits, having first made sure of competitive qualities through price, performance or appeal. It is a product-centric model: the product is at the centre, and its radius is a function of market segment and reach. Customers fill in the area of the circle. Completely full is nirvana.

In a customer-centric world, your product is just one point on the 360º circumference of a circle that constitutes the entire customer predicament. Your marketing efforts travel inwards on a direct line to the centre. If you reach the centre it means they bought you.

So there is also a paradox between the product-centric model and the customer-centric model: to the marketer the product is a 360º totality but to the customer it is a 1º Maybe.

How can these two disparate models be reconciled? The challenge for the marketer is to travel the remaining 359º to fully understand the customer predicament and then apply that knowledge. Touch Marketing is the expression I use to envelope customer values, position the product properly and develop a marketing platform that builds a relationship based on shared values. In the 360º view of the customer price may not be important, features may not be important. Convenience and simplicity might be important but you won’t know until you do the 360º About Face, learn how your customer really sees their world and relates to your product within everything they do.

It takes some effort to wrench oneself away from the comfort of one’s own perspective. Nobody wants to have their ‘comfort-tree’ shaken. I am not talking about customer-satisfaction. Too many marketers pat themselves on the back with positive customer survey responses and remain in marketing stasis. I am talking about real-life relevance:
–> how to make your marketing more relevant to customer values so that they embrace not only what you are selling now, but also what you will sell in the future. If you do the 360º About Face, your next products will also support their values.

You have to go as far away from what you know and feel about your business or products to learn what it means to be customer-centric. Then you will have done the 360º About Face and be ready to pick up your product, brand or service and build a meaningful relationship with your customers.

In case you thought I was advocating going this distance with every single customer – that would be unnecessary. Customers form into segments also. The classifications won’t always fit the precise definitions of your marketing textbook. Go and find out. In each case it’s interesting and you’ll learn something to help you grow your business.

ENTITLEMENT AND THE FREEBY GENERATION

If civilized society has anything to gripe about concerning the psychology of the Next-Generation it is the notion of Entitlement. Everyone feels entitled to whatever they want. Whether it is media attention, petty theft, massive fraud, obscene public demonstrations, more pay for less work, or the calculated elimination of ‘whoever gets in my way’, the overbearing sense of “What’s right in my eyes, is not wrong” is at the core of a society overfed on a diet of Entitlement.

I was musing on the source of this growth of human failing and I arrived at the conclusion that it is We Marketers that have fed the beast. We took a youngling generation and bombarded them, not only with hyped-up aspirations, but also the tempting lure of anything FREE – the unearned reward offered for future gain. Nothing breeds a false sense of entitlement better than providing something for nothing to someone that has done nothing to deserve it. It is the classic case of the parent that spoils the child. And, if you consider carefully enough you will see that the lure of so many competing brands has been carved out of the ‘I’ll give it you for FREE’ promotion. To the extent that mortgages went sub-prime, and that Central Banks are actually contemplating PAYING interest to get you to borrow money in order to keep the economy liquid. The word FREE has become so common place in marketing that it has become a nickname for WORTHLESS.

So I was quite happy to see that Apple had reported its highest profit report in contradistinction to the World Economy having gone SPLAT. Nothing Apple sells is for free. The opposite is true. It sells at a premium and makes a healthy profit. Yet I have attended many conventions and read many marketing experts who say the best way to get your product out there is to offer it for FREE.

How to understand the paradox? It is not so simple as to say that a gift cheapens the giver. Or that entitlement cannot be resisted. A free trial will get the product into the customer’s hands. But then you start to lose control. There are two psychologies at work here. Entitlement and Ambition. If you think about it further, you will realize that these are polar opposites. Ambition is to strive for. Entitlement is to stagnate.

Apply a customer-centric marketing scenario: if the relationship is built on the customer’s Entitlement values, then you won’t find room for growth. Any improvements in service or quality will just feed Customer Entitlement and you will have to keep adding more value to maintain the current relationship, while cutting into your product margin. But, if you focus your marketing on your customer’s values of Ambition, then it drives you to innovation, invention and a means to grow the premium value of your product. This is how Apple is distinct from the other PC vendors.

We have known for a long time in marketing that price promotion kills margin and resets the bar of customer expectations to a lower level. But did we ever consider how we have bred a generation of entitlement sociopaths? The sense of entitlement over all material aspects of our society is deeply embedded. It is only the products that are the fruits of customer Ambition that can truly succeed without the ubiquitous FREE offer. Those products are the ones we want to pay more for. It satisfies our Ambition.

So what do you think? Is FREE a death word in marketing. Any takers?

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