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Category Archives: Marketing Advice

What works for you or what works for your customers?


A couple of experiences recently have prompted me to think about how process and procedures adopted by businesses can impact on the customer experience.

I recently purchased an item from a concession of Coast in a department store. I went into a Coast store to return the item but was told I would have to return it to the department store.  Aside from this being irritating and inconvenient it got me thinking…..the item is a Coast product and is on sale in their high street stores, so there is no difference in product, so what was the reason behind the store not being able to accept it back?

My conclusion was that really it was down to the internal processes in place at Coast and/or the department store, probably as part of the concession agreement or for accounting purposes.  To my mind who made the rule is immaterial, the question it raised for me as a marketer is, are company’s policies and procedures reviewed with the customer in mind?

Another instance was when completing my tax return online. After receiving a plethora of codes, passwords and unique reference numbers, I finally needed to speak to someone as my online account was not working.  The phone system was a myriad of press 1 for this 2 for that, 9 for the other, I must have been through 3 long, confusing and unclear menus when I was directed to the website and cut off.

Again the question in my mind was, for whose benefit were these processes put in place? Certainly not the customers!

Of course the banks, phone companies and Inland Revenue will tell you that automated phone systems are the best way to direct your call to the right person.  More often than not I suspect it has more to do with managing volumes of calls so they can reduce manpower.  Whilst customers are left frustrated by waiting times, unclear direction and annoying messages telling them their call is important when it is clearly not.

From the moment a customer engages with an organisation, whether it be over the phone, on the web or in person they are experiencing that organisation’s internal procedures.  Yet I wonder how often marketing get involved in the formation of these procedures and to assess their impact on customers?

I would argue that it is certainly marketing’s remit to get involved in this and below are my tips for finding out how your internal processes and procedures impact on the customer.  Using these will help you identify bottle necks or over complicated procedures before they have a negative impact on your customers.

  1. Find out what it is like to be a customer of your organisation, if your organisation is large enough for you or your team to be anonymous make mystery calls to sales reps/ customer services/ your online help team and accounts. Browse your website (how easy is it to find your phone number, the product you are after or the location of the business), attend an event (how easy is it to register, what information do you receive, how are you greeted on the day, are you introduced to the right people)
  2. Employ a mystery shopper to test all of your routes to market,  to return a faulty item, query an invoice, reset an online password, visit reception, make a complaint or attend a marketing event.
  3. Do some customer experience research, all too often marketers ask customers about the attributes of products and services they want, but how often do we ask about how they would like the product or service to be delivered? E.g. how would they prefer delivery (using Royal Mail or a Distribution Company could impact on their ability to pick up if they miss the delivery).  Do customers like your automated call answering or would they prefer to talk to a person in the first instance? Is your reception area welcoming?  Is your payment process clear and straightforward? How easy is it to return an unwanted item?  How easy is it to park at your premises?
  4. Liaise with other departments in your organisation, ask them questions like why is it that invoices are processed in this way, what is the procedure for logging complaints, why is the returns policy this way, how come customers can’t call the sales team? How come our reception area is not manned?  Why can’t the sales team see the same customer information as accounts? Often these procedures are there because “its the way its always been” and that they are not that effective internally either. You may find that there are other advocates for change in your business.
  5. Report back to the senior management team on your findings and suggestions for improvement.
  6. Review regularly.

There are some organisations that get this right.  I recently had a very positive experience with LK Bennett, which demonstrated a good linkup between their phone-based customer service team and their stores and Amazon who always impress with their slick and user friendly ordering and distribution service.  Good examples of where process and procedure are driven by customer need.

If you are a business that would like help on understand your customer’s experience and improving your processes to meet customer need  contact me on jer@josrichardson.couk or call 01405 764525

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Facebook Fatigue…have you got it?


Interesting to read an article in The Drum http://thedrum.co.uk/news/2012/02/06/global-internet-survey-charts-facebook-fatigue this week about some research done on internet usage by GlobalWebIndex which, amongst other things highlighted decline in Facebook usage amongst the early adopters. Coined as “Facebook fatigue” it seems that these early adopters might now be leaving Facebook behind.

Whilst at the outset this might look like bad news for Facebook, in practice it really isn’t. Early Adopters tend to represent around 13% of consumers and they are likely to be more fickle and move onto new technologies quicker than others.

Facebook has experienced rapid growth since 2009, 5 years after the launch in 2004.  This growth will have been made up of consumers labelled as the Early and the Late Majority.  The Early Majority wait until the Innovators and Early Adopters have given something their seal of approval before committing.  This group can represent around 34% of consumers and once they start signing up the medium goes into the biggest growth phase eventually attracting the Late Majority – again around 34%.  This is where Facebook is probably now and it is inevitable as it becomes more mainstream that the cool kids, innovators and early adopters will tire of it.

It is no different to the band you liked when no one else knew about them graduating to being on the playlist at Radio 1. Suddenly they lose their appeal, the exclusivity of the club is no more and the values that you once so admired seem to become swamped by commercial drivers.  For Innovators and Early Adopters the fact that their Dad and their Nan are on Facebook and that big business are set to invest, moves it from cool to mainstream and there will inevitably be a decline in interest from this group.

For Facebook, however, this is the coup.  They now have on board the consumers who are the most loyal, the least reluctant to move to new technologies and the least concerned about being “cool”.  These people have developed networks, connected with friends past and present, shared information and personal details with something that they trust.  It is the perfect time to announce a flotation on the stock market because this adds to the credibility of the business in their eyes.

It seems Facebook have succeeded where MySpace failed. MySpace went after the cash too early and lost credibility amongst their following which was substantially smaller than Facebook’s. They have since struggled to regain this and with recent reports that even their employees have lost faith in it, it remains to be seen if the recent joint venture with Panasonic will save them. They would need offer something innovative and new to win back some of the Innovators and Early Adopters they have lost, get them to breath new life into their space and champion it to those more reluctant to take risks.

Some research done in the states suggests that early adopters are still using Facebook on a regular basis and it might be that the talk of “Facebook fatigue” outweighs the reality of people disconnecting from the space.  Whilst our friends and family are talking and connecting on Facebook we have a compelling reason to stay that is part of human nature….we don’t want to be left out or miss anything.

 

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How I make marketing work


Often when I speak with people about my work I get the impression still that there is a lot of mystery around marketing and how it works.  The perception can often be that marketing is the magic wand that solves a companies problems and that no one is really sure what works and what doesn’t and that marketers have all the answers.

I suspect, like many other professions, marketeers have been happy to let this misconception prevail. We all like to think we know something that someone else doesn’t.  I recently spoke to a  businessman who had built a successful and profitable business over 30 years he said to me, “I don’t understand this marketing stuff”.  My answer to him was that he had been doing it for over 30 years and just had not labelled it as such.  It is simple really, understand your product or service and the benefits it brings, match this to customer need and tell them about it.  This might sound a little trite but I genuinely believe that marketing is about pairing common sense with business acumen.

When I am talking to businesses I find that the owners, managers and staff know what the business needs, where it is doing well, what it needs to improve.  They often have the ideas about how to market their business and what needs to be done.  Where they can fail is having the structure to plan and the resources to deliver.  This can be the same in small organisations with no dedicated marketing resource and in larger firms who have invested in marketing teams.

That is why I have tried to simplify how I approach giving marketing advice or support.  My 3 key tips for making marketing work are:

1. Understand the business.  It may sound obvious but you would be surprised how many marketers do not. Unless you know what the business does and is trying to achieve, what its products and services are, how they are delivered, who the customers are and what they want, you will never be able to market it successfully.   Do you know what products are selling well, what the profitability is, how they contribute to the overall picture of the business?  Do you understand the sector, what the trends are, what your competitors are doing?  How much money is wasted on marketing activity that brings little or no results?  Often this stems from not understanding what the business really needs.  The board, directors and or management are more likely to respect your opinions and ideas if they come from a basis of sound knowledge of their business.

2. Take time to plan. This can be difficult particularly if you are under pressure to be seen to be doing something, lots of business owners are entrepreneurial and don’t like to “waste” time planning.  I have lost count of the times I have heard “just get on with it”, but without planning you can often get bogged down in the minutiae of an activity without seeing the overall picture.  If you don’t plan and set objectives, how can you be sure at the end of the activity that it has been a success.  Planning also means that you can schedule activity over time, you can link relevant activities together, forward plan for important events, forecast budgets and have a consistent approach.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can not stress enough how important this is. This is what I do. Before: communicate what you are going to do, why you are going to do it, what outcomes you expect. During: communicate what you are doing, how it is going, what issues you are having, how you are addressing them. After: communicate what you have done, what you have achieved, what you have learnt and what you are going to do next. I have two reasons for this approach 1. It demonstrates to your boss, client and/or colleagues that you have ideas, are doing something and are providing value.  I have seen people doing great work but not telling anyone what they are doing, why they are doing it or what they have achieved.  The belief can often develop that you are not doing anything. 2. It allows your  boss, client and/or colleagues to contribute, give feedback and guide you if you’re on the wrong track.  This collaborative way of working always yields better results and people buy into what you are trying to achieve if they have had some stake in it.

If you think you or your business could benefit from some straightforward marketing advice then please call me on 07827393181 or email jer@josrichardson.co.uk

 

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