I Solve Your Problems

Deborah Chaddock Brown professional speakerLast week I spoke at the Fastbreak Breakfast hosted by the Canton Chamber and Aultcare. The topic was social media strategy and as part of my speech I have the participants think about their 30 second commerical in terms of the 140 character restriction of most social sites.

You have to be focused. People don’t want to know your name or your company or WHAT you do, they want to know HOW you help them and what the RESULTS are. Then if you capture your attention, they’ll want to know more. So it comes down to:

I help WHO achieve WHAT?

I asked for volunteers to share their story and one gentleman said that he was a house painter.

“So you transform my home. You make my rooms like new.”

“No,” he said.  “I solve your problems.”

“Oh, honey,” I told him. “That will take more than a gallon of paint!”

He was thinking about what he offered. Sanding, grout, filling holes and cracks, primer, paint, wallpaper removal and installation, etc.

But as a potential customer “solving my problems” made me think about what my problems are: nine year old car on its last legs, a $4500 orthodonist bill for my daughter, my Mom’s upcoming surgery and the fact that I need new dress shoes but I can’t seem to find any that I like.

All the more reason it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and be more focused with your message.

Last night I gave a similar speech to the SMEI in Akron and when we came to the same exercise a man who offered private label baked goods said that he “helps grow sales with proprietary products, custom.”

I said – any product?

No.

And by proprietary do you mean private label? Which term is more likely to be used by a customer searching your services? Using the Google Trends tool I find that proprietary products is never used when compared with private label.

When I hear custom, I think custom auto, custom design, custom anything but muffins. Once again, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think like they do.

We get so caught up in the passion of what we do that it becomes all consuming and we forget that our customers have other things on their mind besides what we offer.

The lesson is to be focused rather than broad. I don’t solve all your problems, I create a home beautiful with paint and paper. I increase your sales through custom made food products that carry your company name.  Short, sweet, but focused.

Don’t leave your customers wondering. Don’t make them guess. Think like they do when creating your marketing message or 140 character status update.

And if you can solve all my problems – please, call me!  🙂

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Four Principles to a Customer Focused Business

Hangers Cleaners in Kansas City was featured on Cool Runnings for taking a different approach to a pretty boring business segment – dry cleaners.

Joe Runyon, the owner of Hangers Cleaners shares his thoughts on making a business successful. And in his case – being successful in an industry that is declining.  Watch the video, but here are the four main ideas:

  1. Define a powerful competitive advantage. In Joe’s case it was using an ecologically friendly solution to cleaning clothes.
  2. Be convenient for your customer. Again, Joe determined that pick up and delivery service, as a complement to his brick and mortar, was a convenient and welcome solution.
  3. Save customers time. He also developed a computer tag for clothes of regular customers which includes their cleaning preferences so that the customer doesn’t have to continually repeat their starching requests. This leads to better quality and higher satisfaction.
  4. Let your brand reflect your personality. He is a little quirky and that shows – in a good way. Employees wear shirts that say “sniff me” and the hangers have a message that inform customers that hangers can also be a spare car key.  Let your personality shine in your business and customers will gravate to you.
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Where’s the Focus: Marketing or Service

When you look at the company budget – do you spend equal dollars on marketing for new customers as you do servicing your existing customers?

When the economy started to tank, one of the first things companies pulled was training. The focus on customer service shifted from having importance to a “nice to have.”

I wonder if we turned the budget upside down and spent the amount we currently spend on driving new traffic, on programs, training and incentives that focus on customer service for our existing customers – what impact would that have on our bottom line?

Let’s do a little back of the envelope comparison:

Existing CUSTOMERS

  • Know where we are located
  • Know what we sell
  • Know the quality of our products and services
  • Know how they’ll be treated
  • Know what happens if there is a problem – how we will take care of them and make it right
  • Return for more purchases if we keep in touch and invite them back
  • Refer us to their friends and family and statistics show that people who learn of a recommendation are 80% more likely to buy

Nice.  Now let’s look at the new PROSPECTS we are trying to drive to our doors (website)

  • They have to find us through the clutter of competitors ads
  • Don’t know where we are located and can easily confuse us with the competition around the corner
  • Have no clue why we are better or different from the competition
  • Don’t know what service experience they’ll have
  • Lump us into every other bad experience they’ve had in our industry when it comes to resolving complaints
  • Only 14% of potential customers trust marketing messages

“Companies spend 6 to 10 times more to acquire new customers than they do to retain existing customers. But a 5% increase in customer retention can have a bottom-line profit increase of 75%, depending on the industry.” 

-Don Neal, Director of Business Development for Hallmark Business Expressions

I’m not suggesting that marketing is a waste of money – certainly we have to keep our brand name visible and available in the market place; but isn’t there a good argument for revisiting how much effort, training and dollars we spend making sure our employees take care of the people already doing business with us?

Just a little food for thought.  I’d be interested to know if you have already come to this conclusion and what programs you put in place for reaching and wooing those existing customers.  Share! 

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Age of Conversation 3 – coming SOON!!!

age3cover

Once again Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton have corraled a couple hundred writers, marketers, and entrepreneurs and asked them to provide their valuable insights into connecting with the customer through social media.  The book is currently at the publisher and is expected to hit the book stores (print and Kindle/iPad versions) in April!  I’m humbled to be part of this wonderful collection for the second time.

In the Age of Conversation 3 Gavin and Drew asked authors to share their thoughts in one of ten areas:

At the Coalface

There is much to be said for good strategy, but what happens when the strategy is done? What happens when the time for talking is over? This section is about working at the coalface of social media. It’s about the real world lessons that come hard and fast. It’s about case studies and the stories and events that are much better in the re-telling than in the moment.

Conversational Branding

When we talk of brands, we generally understand what it means. But what happens when a brand ventures into online conversation. What does it mean to participate in these conversations? Is this earned media? Is it paid for? Or is there an in-between space?  How important is brand in the social media space?  How does the conversation shape or change the brand?

Influence

Much is made of influence, but what does “influence” mean in social media? Who has it, and who creates it? Does influence mean different things to different people?  Is it hype or can it make the cash register ring?  Is influence one of the new currencies?

Getting to work

They say that the best approach to social media is dive in. But getting to work with social media can be harder than it first appears. What have you done to quickly get to work?  Or perhaps this section is about how you use social media to get to work — literally.  Is it a viable tool for networking and job hunting?  Or maybe this section is about how social media is changing the face of work.  Does getting to work now mean sitting at the kitchen table in your bathrobe?

Corporate Conversations

There is plenty of coverage of social media when the focus is on marketing or advertising. But what is happening in other parts of your business? How is social media playing within your business and has it surprised you?  Or…if you’re a consultant or agency, how do you introduce social media to the C-level at your client’s business?  How do you make social media more than a fad or seem relevant to the bottom line?

Measurement

Can you measure social media? Many claim you can and many claim you can’t. But if you can measure social media, should you? And how do you measure it?  And do you measure it in terms of ROI?  Or influence?  Or ability to do good?  What are the metrics that matter and how do you get to them?

In the boardroom

Is social media a fad dreamed up by the marketing department to get the attention of the executives? What are the hard questions and firm answers that get thrown around the boardroom. And who, if anyone, is best placed to answer?  What role should the C-level executives play in a company’s social media strategy?  Do they just green light it?  Should the CEO have a blog?  Or…from a non-profit’s perspective, how does the board of directors play a role in the organization’s SM activities?

Pitching social media

The work has been done and the late nights are weighing heavily on your shoulders. But it’s time to buck up – to pull it all together and wow your client. What do you do to impress? Is there a new art to pitching social media? And is it important to eat your own dog food?  Or, if you’re from the PR side of the table, how are you pitching your client’s stories to social media’s influentials?  Or are you using a different tactic?

Innovation and Execution

People make great claims for social media. Is it the long dreamed of silver bullet? Can the tools and techniques be harnessed to drive innovation? How can you take an idea or a strategy and make it work for your brand or your business?  How do you move from idea to actual execution?  What task or tool has social media eliminated or replaced?  What do you predict it will eliminate in the future?

Identities, friends and trusted strangers

Many people are now living much of their lives online.  Who do you call friend?  How do you set boundaries or decide who to let into your circle of influence?  How do you know who to trust when you can’t look them in the eyes?  How do you define your own identity?  What tools, techniques and sites do you find most useful in creating your online brand?  How do offline meetings or conferences influence your online identity?

A pretty powerful collection of ideas – wouldn’t you say?  So who are the contributing authors?  Check out this list of amazing people:

Adam Joseph Priyanka Sachar Mark Earls
Cory Coley-Christakos Stefan Erschwendner Paul Hebert
Jeff De Cagna Thomas Clifford Phil Gerbyshak
Jon Burg Toby Bloomberg Shambhu Neil Vineberg
Joseph Jaffe Uwe Hook Steve Roesler
Michael E. Rubin anibal casso Steve Woodruff
Steve Sponder Becky Carroll Tim Tyler
Chris Wilson Beth Harte Tinu Abayomi-Paul
Dan Schawbel Carol Bodensteiner Trey Pennington
David Weinfeld Dan Sitter Vanessa DiMauro
Ed Brenegar David Zinger Brett T. T. Macfarlane
Efrain Mendicuti Deb Brown Brian Reich
Gaurav Mishra Dennis Deery C.B. Whittemore
Gordon Whitehead Heather Rast Cam Beck
Hajj E. Flemings Joan Endicott Cathryn Hrudicka
Jeroen Verkroost Karen D. Swim Christopher Morris
Joe Pulizzi Leah Otto Corentin Monot
Karalee Evans Leigh Durst David Berkowitz
Kevin Jessop Lesley Lambert Duane Brown
Peter Korchnak Mark Price Dustin Jacobsen
Piet Wulleman Mike Maddaloni Ernie Mosteller
Scott Townsend Nick Burcher Frank Stiefler
Steve Olenski Rich Nadworny John Rosen
Tim Jackson Suzanne Hull Len Kendall
Amber Naslund Wayne Buckhanan Mark McGuinness
Caroline Melberg Andy Drish Oleksandr Skorokhod
Claire Grinton Angela Maiers Paul Williams
Gary Cohen Armando Alves Sam Ismail
Gautam Ramdurai B.J. Smith Tamera Kremer
Iqbal Mohammed Brendan Tripp Adelino de Almeida
Jacob Morgan Casey Hibbard Andy Hunter
Julian Cole Debra Helwig Anjali Ramachandran
Jye Smith Drew McLellan Craig Wilson
Karin Hermans Emily Reed David Petherick
Katie Harris Gavin Heaton Dennis Price
Mark Levy George Jenkins Doug Mitchell
Mark W. Schaefer Helge Tenno Douglas Hanna
Marshall Sponder James Stevens Ian Lurie
Ryan Hanser Jenny Meade Jeff Larche
Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher David Svet Jessica Hagy
Simon Payn Joanne Austin-Olsen Mark Avnet
Stanley Johnson Marilyn Pratt Mark Hancock
Steve Kellogg Michelle Beckham-Corbin Michelle Chmielewski
Amy Mengel Veronique Rabuteau peter komendowski
Andrea Vascellari Timothy L Johnson Phil Osborne
Beth Wampler Amy Jussel Rick Liebling
Eric Brody Arun Rajagopal Dr Letitia Wright
Hugh de Winton David Koopmans Aki Spicer
Jeff Wallace Don Frederiksen Charles Sipe
Katie McIntyre James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw David Reich
Lynae Johnson Jasmin Tragas Deborah Chaddock Brown
Mike O’Toole Jeanne Dininni Iqbal Mohammed
Morriss M. Partee Katie Chatfield Jeff Cutler
Pete Jones Riku Vassinen Jeff Garrison
Kevin Dugan Tiphereth Gloria Mike Sansone
Lori Magno Valerie Simon Nettie Hartsock
Mark Goren Peter Salvitti

Keep checking back here for updates on when you can order your copies!  By the way – the really cool cover was designed by none other than cover designer Chris Wilson.   

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Welcome Smart Marketing Strategy

smart marketing strategyJean Gianfagna, marketing strategiest and business owner of Gianfagna Marketing recently started a blog entitled:  Smart Marketing Strategy.  Great name and as it turns out – great information.

I just took a visit and found an interesting blog post on connecting the customer data gathered with the marketing message delivered. In the post, Why Customer Data is Essential for Effective Marketing – Especially for Your Customers Jean shares a personal example of how Disney and Chase bank missed the boat when it came to using the historical customer data they had on file.

Generic marketing message sent to existing or prior customers without taking advantage of the weath of personalized data sends the loud message WE DON’T CARE TO TAKE THE TIME TO SEND YOU A MESSAGE PERSONALIZED TO YOUR NEEDS.

In Jean’s case, Chase sent a message that missed the boat on a variety of levels.  Her advice for how they could have captured her attention more effectively:

Dig deeper into the customer file and find all the Charter Cardmembers who are lapsed customers. Append those recordswith current demographic data to see how many are families with grown children or adults who are now grandparents. Send these empty-nesters a direct mail package promoting the fun and value of the Disney experience for adults, or a package targeting grandparents with grandkids for that segment of the mailing list. Most important, acknowledge and celebrate the customer’s prior relationship with Disneyand demonstrate — in a way that’s relevant and real — why restarting that relationship now, at a new point in the customer’s lifecycle, is an unbeatable offer.

Jean’s point – take the time to match an appropriate message to customers based on the information already gathered.  It is the rifle approach rather than the shotgun.  A targeted message is more likely to connect with the customer and inspire them to take action. 

If you are going to gather the data – why not use it to build a customer relationship?

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Who Do You Compare Yourself To?

I can remember sitting around the executive table at Pearle Vision with the competition ads in front of us.  We would scour over their wording and product focus and even their color scheme to see how we could position our message to stand out.

Then one time and gosh I wish I could remember who said this – we threw out the competition material and decided to look with a fresh, clean slate.  “If we only compare ourselves to the competition then we force our thinking into a rigid box.  We need to just compare our performance and company to ourselves and then begin to think outside the box.”

I just joined a gym.  Yes – I’m paying good money for all the pain I am in.  I look around the room at people 20 years older than I am lifting weights, working out on the machines going a mile a minute and it is hard not to be intimidated.  But the trainer that helped me get started gave me some great advice.

“Don’t look at them.  Don’t compare yourself to them.  Don’t look and see what someone else is doing, just focus on your own progress.”

And I am making progress.  I can see it in my clothes and on the scale, I can feel it in my knees and I am enjoying a greater sense of energy than I’ve had in the past, but it is hard not to compare yourself to others.

When we compare ourselves to others we do so without all of the information.  We don’t know their strategy or what they have planned for the future – we can only see the tip of the iceburg and therefore in our comparison can make invalid assumptions.  Whereas, when we only look at our own performance for comparison, we do have all of the information.  We know about the great margin discounts we received from a supplier or we understand the unique needs of our customer or the fact that we just invested money in a customer service training program for our sales staff.  We can see what the results are based on the effort and focus we put forth.

So rather than comparing yourself to the competition – hold the mirror up and ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • How am I doing based on the customer’s expectations?
  • Has my referral or repeat business increased?
  • What percentage of my customers are returning customers?
  • Has my average transaction increased?
  • Have we improved relationships with our vendors?
  • Has the number of complaints dwindled?
  • Has the number of compliments increased?
  • How is the employee morale versus last year at this time?

Just like Mom always said “keep your eyes on your own plate” when I’d complain that my brother didn’t have to eat as many peas as I did – we need to just focus our attention on improving business based on our own performance rather than that of the competition.

What benchmarks do you have for your business?  How do you compare and measure success?

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Making it Easy for Customers to Find You

Have you heard of the new pop band opening for the Jonas Bros?  Honor Society.

While in Phoenix I heard them interviewed on the wildly popular morning talk show John Jay and Rich and they were fun, quick and talented.  But the thing I took away the most from their interview was that they “got” the importance of being easy to find and being EVERYWHERE on the Internet. 

They have a consistent brand.  Their name:  Honor Society. 

When asked where fans could find them to purchase their records they said:

We are on Twitter @honor society, on MySpace/honorsociety, on Facebook/honorsociety, on YouTube/honorsociety.  Then one of the band members said, “yeah we are pretty much everywhere – just type in Honor Society.”

I thought – man, these little 20something (if that) have nailed a critical branding fact that I’m still struggling with.  Pick a brand – stick to it – use it everywhere.  I’m on all of the social media sites but some times I use my name, other times, my tag line and still others, my company name.  How can anyone find me?  How can I be known one for thing?

How about you?  Are you easy to find?  Are you visible on the web with just one brand name?

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The Age of Conversation – CONTINUED

Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute is at it again!  For the third time he’s bringing together marketing and business professionals from around the world to share their thoughts, tips and techniques and profits benefit a charity.

I had the pleasure of joining in the Conversation last time.

This time Drew has invited 300 authors to participate and share their views in ten different areas.  There are already 137 of the original authors signed up to contribute again (me too!) but effective TODAY, Drew has opened up the opportunity to YOU!

Go RIGHT THIS MINUTE – to complete this Survey Monkey survey and sign up to be a part of Age of Conversation  3.  Only thirty people will be selected for each topic so you need to go right now and sign up so you can get the topic of your choice. 

For more information about Age of Conversation 3 visit Drew’s blog.

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Advertising in 2 AD

2ad-advertisementI just returned back from a once in a life time trip to Italy with my Mom and daughter, Emily.  We began our adventure in Rome where we hooked up with 38 other Americans experiencing Italy with cross-generational family members.  Tauck tour groups has a series of tours called Bridges in which Grandparents and their Granchildren can experience a new country together.

My 12 year old daugher has wanted to go to Rome since Hillary Duff filmed the Lizzie Mcguire movie and so away we went.

During our first day we experienced the Vatican museums and the Sistene Chapel. In the grand hall leading up to the chapel we encountered this painted tablet. Our tour guide, Richardo, informed us that it was advertising in its earliest form.

This tablet is about 4 feet sqaure and was painted outside of the restaurant – informing passers-by what type of food they could expect to enjoy should they venture indoors.  Advertising as early as 2 AD.

While I was traveling, I took notes of some of the sales, marketing and cutomer service experience we encountered.  Over the next few blog posts I’ll be sharing some of my insights.  Suffice it to say – my Earning Customer Loyalty speech is going to be revised based on the lessons I learned from the Italians I encountered. 

I invite you to share the experiences you’ve had while traveling abroad of if you live in another country – please share your culture as it relates to customer service. 

I sometimes think that Americans believe they have it all figured out when it comes to sales and service and yet I found an entirely different truth while in Italy.  It was eye opening!

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