Tag Archives: Word-of-Mouth

So they found you…now what?

Why your customer experience is critical to loyalty and advocacy once SEO has made you awareYou made it…you just spent a boat load of money on SEO, AdWords, PPC, and a host of other tools available to get more potential customers to your website so they can see who you are…now what?

Let’s say your website was above average and the prospect looked around and actually found some product/service they thought they needed and bought it…now what?

Let’s say the new customer was found your product/service to be what they imagined and enjoyed using it or the service you offered…now what?

For most organizations, this is the end of the process…until you come back to buy more. ONE AND DONE. You made the sale, feel great about getting a new customer, and time to move on to getting more…the same way.

This is where most companies MISS OUT ON THEIR MOST VALUABLE OPPORTUNITY!

Allow me to add the MISSING LINK.

The process of creating Awareness, Educating the customer, Acquiring the customer, Delivering to the customer, and repeating the process is expensive today and carries lower profits than ever before…because you now have more competitors than you have ever had before who are happy to shrink margins down to almost nothing just to be in the market. This means you have to follow suit to some degree as well or you will be wiped out by the lower pricing. Something’s missing…

What’s missing is the area that carries the largest opportunity to avoid this game and keep your fair margins…the OPPORTUNITY TO CHOOSE NOT TO PLAY IN THE COMMODITY GAME WITH YOUR COMPETITION. This is an opportunity for every business…they just don’t take advantage of it.

The missing link for margin, repeat customers (at a lower cost of sale), and almost “zero cost marketing” is waiting for virtually every business…they are just choosing not to take advantage of it.

The MISSING LINK IS THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

In our research and consulting on customer journeys, we’ve found that organizations able to skillfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.” — McKinsey Consulting Company

81% of customers are willing to pay more for a superior customer experience…89% of customers switch brands after a poor customer experience…20% of annual revenues are lost due to poor customer experiences.” — Oracle Corporation

Offering an INCREDIBLE, AWESOME, REMARKABLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE you are able to LEVERAGE all the hard work you put into finding the prospect…you can turn them into a MARKETING ENGINE for your company. When a customer has a WOW experience, they do two things…

  1. They want more of it…this translates to spending more money with you more frequently
  2. They want to tell others…this translates to them marketing for you…for free

The component today that gives your great product/service the true horsepower it deserves is to couple it with a REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE. When you marry the two, you move beyond ONE AND DONE and leave the world of COMMODITIZATION. This is what allows you to rise above your competition and remove yourself from the “margin game” of cutting prices to compete. It is what allows you to rise above your competition in the eyes of your customer and be viewed as DIFFERENT.

When you don’t have this experience to offer along the way with your great product/service, you lose your ability to leverage the sale and the customer. The customer now thinks of you only when they might need the product/service again…but at that point they will also “shop the market” to see if anyone is offering a “better deal” on the same or similar product. If they find it…you lost the customer and any opportunity for additional sales to this customer.

But when you add the INCREDIBLE, AWESOME, REMARKABLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE to the entire process, the customer has no reason to “shop the market” because they are “over the top” happy with how you treated them and how special they feel when doing business with you. Price now becomes a secondary consideration, not a primary one…YOU WIN…over and over again with the same customer.

You have now successfully leveraged all the investment you made in acquiring the customer and gotten a much higher return for your dollar invested. And to add a cherry on the top, you have them out in the market telling thousands of other potential customers about how awesome and amazing you are. Leveraging your customers is the survival kit of today for any business.

Now when the new customer FINDS YOU there is a definite pathway to turning them into a LOYAL ADVOCATE for your company…getting a greater share of their wallet…more frequent purchases…higher margins…more marketing by your customer to potential customers. No longer will you ever worry about “NOW WHAT” in the process. You know what happens throughout the entire process and are reaping more rewards than ever before.

Adding a strategic CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS to your existing processes is where you get the leverage in today’s crowded, noisy marketplace…and you move from a “Commodity” to the “Exceptional and Preferred Provider” in the eyes of your customer. Now they not only found you…they love doing business with you and telling all their friends.

Customer Centric Businesses will always have the 3 C’s

Customer Centricity is being all about your customer and delivering a remarkable customer experience every dayCUSTOMER CENTRICITY is a great…actually it is AWESOME! Even though it is kind of technical sounding term, it is great at describing one key thing…EVERYTHING IN YOUR COMPANY STARTS AND ENDS WITH THE CUSTOMER. It’s building all your processes (and experiences) with the customer in the center of everything, rather than your product or service being your primary focus. My term for Customer Centricity is a bit simpler…CUSTOMER OBSESSION.

Regardless of the term you prefer, the concept is the same…building your business around the customer so they love what you do for them, receive an incredible experience, and encourage them to spread word-of-mouth about you. This is what separates you from your competitors…because they still believe they can differentiate themselves based on their product or service offering. This used to work really well 10+ years ago…but today, differentiating on products and services means you have to be the very best in playing the “commodity game” of price and terms. And with global competition, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to win at this game in the new Customer (Internet) Economy.

If you least accept the concept of Customer Centricity (hopefully you have bought into how powerful this is for your future), there are 3 C’s that are critical to being successful today and into the future. Focus on developing these 3C’s and continually work on making them better and better will not only allow you to beat out your competitors and be completely differentiated, your customers will be love and talk about you. And since customers are the only group that pays you money, it just makes sense to focus on them…which is one of the many reasons why I have focused in this area for the past 20 years.

So what exactly are the 3 C’s you need to allow Customer Centricity (or Customer Obsession) to work for your company? Here they are with a brief explanation to get you started…

  1. Consistency…One of the most critical ingredients to the formula for Customer Centricity is being consistent. As we phrased it in our book (Creating and Delivering Totally Awesome Customer Experiences) without consistency you have “Random Acts of Excellence and Chaos.” This isn’t good…it causes the customers anxiety and stress because they don’t know what to expect. And when customers are confused, they defect (leave). But there is a way to get consistency…treat the Customer Experience like a process. We created a model for this called Customer Experience Mapping™ where we break down the desired experience into a detailed series of Touch Points delivered to the customer…every time. By creating these “Maps” we can be very consistent in delivering the desired experience to our customers. Not only do they enjoy knowing what to expect, but what we deliver is AWESOME and INCREDIBLE so their response is WOW!
  2. Creativity…Once you have Consistency, the experience doesn’t just stop. It actually is a “living breathing component” of your organization that is constantly being improved. As employees deliver this REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE to your customers, they will naturally come up with improvements on how to make it even better. These are captured, discussed, and evaluated for how they could improve our customer experience even more. This process of new ideas, creativity, and improvement is all about INNOVATION. Being open to innovation and improving the experience continually takes it to another level…a level your competitors could only hope to reach some day. So even if your best competitor decides to create their own incredible customer experience (which they usually won’t because it takes focused effort), you are always “one-step ahead” of them because you are continually innovating. This creativity and innovation is what keeps you in the top spot in the customers’ mind.
  3. Culture…Last, and certainly not least (actually this should be number one) is about Culture. Creating a Customer Centric company is analogous to having a CUSTOMER CENTRIC CULTURE. They work together and can’t be separated. If you are want to be Customer Centric then you have to have Culture that lives this every single day. If you want to have a Culture that is focused on your customer, you have to have a Customer Centric Strategy. One can’t exist (or happen) without the other one being in place. And this Customer Centric Culture has to literally ooze throughout the organization in every employee…it has to be the core of why every employee does what they do…it is the foundation built on the values of the leadership team and the company. As I like to say, Customer Centricity becomes part of the “DNA” of your company…it is WHO YOU ARE, NOT WHAT YOU DO.

When organizations have a strong commitment and passion towards these 3 C’s they are allowing themselves (and their customers) the joy and benefits of being Customer Centric. This is a lifestyle, a way of living inside and outside of your organization. When everything is built and created with the customer in mind it actually simplifies most decisions. Now, instead of asking questions about efficiency and effectiveness internal to the organization, we can simply ask, “How does this impact our customer? And does it enhance or detract from the awesome customer experience we give them today?” Based on the answer to these questions, you will have a much clearer direction of how to make the right decision.

One thing happens when an organization becomes Customer Centric…it also becomes more efficient and effective. By obsessing over your customer, your employees find more efficient and effective ways to deliver this experience and make things better on the inside of the company as well…including the roles of your employees. Human beings are great at finding better ways to do something when given the freedom to be creative. This gives them the ability to find the most efficient and effective ways to deliver an awesome customer experience. But it doesn’t work in the other direction. If you focus on efficiency and effectiveness first, usually the customer experience is not improved…in most cases it is worsened because we care more about ourselves than the customer. But put the customer in the center of the company and employees find the most efficient and effective ways to give them an awesome experience.

Do you want to become Customer Centric? This is the first question to ask your leadership team. Are you willing to change your company (perhaps significantly) to one that obsesses over your customer? Are you willing to “stay the course” and be consistent and unrelenting in delivering a remarkable customer experience? Are you willing to invest in your customer by creating this type of organization? Are you willing to change your culture to one that is “all in” on putting your customer first above everything else and allowing them the freedom to create really awesome experiences?

If you can answer YES to these questions…welcome aboard!! You have just made a decision to eclipse your competition and are well on your way to becoming a REMARKABLE COMPANY. Congratulations…now the hard work begins…but also the incredible rewards your customers will bestow upon you with their wallets and their loyalty (and Advocacy). Let your journey begin…today is DAY ONE!

You May be RIGHT but You are Always WRONG

Choose your direction for customer experienceEveryone in the world has heard the phrase, “The Customer is Always Right.” While you can debate it and settle on your own point of view, one thing remains…the customer IS ALWAYS RIGHT. Why? Because it is ALWAYS THEIR PERSPECTIVE…and to each of us, it is always our truth. But there is one key point many of us fail to remember…

LISTENING vs. REACTING/REPLYING

If there is one thing that we are taught to do at an early age is defend…defend our position, our opinion, our right to be right. It’s human nature. When we hear something we don’t agree with, we jump in to “set the story straight” which is another way of saying “defending our position.” If you are in debate class or you are controlling a group that has to follow whatever you say, this might work. It might allow you to enforce your opinion and have others agree/follow.

This DOESN’T WORK WHEN IT COMES TO CUSTOMERS.

All customers…and I mean ALL CUSTOMERS…have an opinion about their experience…and it is 100% accurate! Regardless of what might have really happened, their perspective about their experience is 100% accurate in their mind. Trying to change this is both futile and combative. There is a better way to help them see your point of view and to even win them over to your way of thinking…sometimes.

If you really blew it…royally messed up the experience for the customer, there is an easy answer. ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG AND HAVE A PLAN TO MAKE IT RIGHT. This is the only course of action…anything else will most likely cost you the customer.

With everything else, learning the skill of LISTENING for UNDERSTANDING instead of REACTING and offering a quick REPLY is not only preferred, it is CRITICAL TO CUSTOMER RETENTION.

If you can start of any conversation by doing some “deep listening” you will learn more than you ever knew about your customer experience process that is being delivered. Get defensive and you get zero information that is helpful…and most likely lose the customer and their wealth of information along with it. Start every conversation by listening deeply to WHY THEY ARE NOT HAPPY or WHY THEIR PERCEPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE is different than yours.

WHY. WHY. WHY. WHY. WHY. This will accomplish two things…

  1. It will show your customer you actually care about their experience because you aren’t simply looking for a “surface answer” but really want to know the deep and true answer to why they feel the way they do.
  2. It actually gives you a ton of information about your experience, your employees, your operational processes, your environment, and how you are delivering your experience to your customers.

Armed with this deep information you can actually learn the source…the core…of the issues going in inside your organization. This is PURE GOLD!

Contrast it with how many (probably your competitors) will most likely respond…being defensive or offering an immediate solution without truly understanding the issues and problems. When you simply REACT/RESPOND to a complaint or concern, you usually miss the true and real issue. You end up pacifying the customer without ever knowing the core of the issue and being able to fix it again for other customers. By adopting this strategy of resolution, you usually never solve the core issue. You offer some consolation prize to the customer for their discomfort but don’t address what is causing this issue…allowing it to reoccur with this customer again and other customers in the future.

Take for example the typical Customer Service department. Their goal is to get you off the phone as quickly as possible. This is completely contrary to what they really should be doing (more on this in another post…it’s a very interesting topic). They should be used to try and figure out what “caused” the issue while they are hearing about it. Instead, their goal is to listen and offer a quick solution they hope will make you happy at the moment and get you off the phone so they can go to the next problem. I’m sure you can relate to this strategy as a customer…we have all been treated this way at some point in time.

The customer is always right…at least from their perspective. Find out why they are right…why they have an issue…why they think this issues was caused…why they were treated this way…why it caused them to be upset…and what it is they think could help resolve the issue or keep it from happening again. This is a discussion of “gold nuggets” for your company and your customer experience.

Knowing they are always right, don’t do battle, do DISCOVERY. Learn instead of Lecture on why you are right…because you aren’t right. YOU WILL NEVER WIN THIS WAR…maybe the battle for the day, but the customer always has the last vote. They vote to stay or to leave. LISTEN to them and they will more than likely vote to stay and give you another chance and feel like you truly care. REACT/REPLY and they will more than often vote to leave. Because in the end…you might be RIGHT…but you are WRONG in the eyes of your customer. Change your approach and you will learn more than any of your competitors…you will have the GOLD and your competition will simply tell themselves they are right. I always choose the GOLD!

FREE Customer Traffic Generator

a new idea for creating free customer traffic is using customers to spread word of mouth
a new idea for creating free customer traffic is using customers to spread word of mouth

Have you ever clicked on or checked one of the million ads offering to give you substantially more website traffic? Most have at least clicked once over the past 5 years…if for no other reason than to just see what tricks they might have that could increase the coveted traffic everyone believes is the Holy Grail.

And how many actually hired one of these firms to generate traffic for you and your company? From my experience and talking with business owners that took this step, two primary things happened. First, they either didn’t get the traffic (some even lost their rankings because of the tricks the company used) or the got lots of traffic…most of which was not the customer they wanted…but they got traffic. There are lots of tricks out there today to get website traffic…but should you take the bait and check it out?

Here’s another question you might want to be asking…DO YOU REALLY CARE?

Getting more “eyeballs on your site” to me is like the old cold calling game. It’s a numbers game. Go after and get lots of “leads” and maybe someone will be the right customer and buy. This is a dead model in today’s world. To use a fishing analogy (since I am in the PNW) when you cast your net into the ocean you catch a lot of fish. But if you only want salmon, you have to sort through a ton of fish to find the one salmon you caught with your nets…your chances are one on a million. There is a better way…

Want a GUARANTEED way to find more salmon? Fish for only salmon!! Sounds simple…because it is when you realize you’re really only wanting salmon. Translation…find the customers you really want and desire to have…the ones that will set your business on fire and that match your core values as a company. Then give them the most incredibly remarkable experience you can…every time they interact with you and with every interaction. When this happens, they can’t wait to tell other customers…who are just like them…about you. Translation…they tell other salmon.

When your prize is more eyeballs and more traffic, you are really saying you want to stay in the “Industrial Revolution” which for all intents and purposes sadly ended at the turn of the century. And unless you have the very best “commodity” product that can beat everyone on price and terms, you will lose in this new “Customer Economy” we live in today. “Spraying and praying,” as they used to call it, doesn’t work when the customer can choose among many competitors that can offer pretty much the same product or service.

So the choice is to use techniques where you can get the “one in a million” return and drive lots of traffic and eyeballs to your site or simply rock your customers with the most remarkable WOW experience they have ever had and let them send all the salmon to your site.

YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE THE BEST FISHERMEN YOU HAVE AVAILABLE…THEY BOTH KNOW WHERE THE SALMON ARE AND THEY TELL THEM TO GO TO YOUR SITE AND CHOOSE YOUR COMPANY.

This is the ultimate for generating and delivering FREE CUSTOMER TRAFFIC.

TRUE LOYALTY is about TRUST…not the DEAL

Trust is required to create true customer loyalty and build loyal advocates

CUSTOMER LOYALTY is actually pretty simple…it’s all about TRUST. Customers are loyal to you because they trust you and what you deliver to them on a consistent basis. I have never heard any customer say they are loyal to a business where they didn’t have a solid level of trust.

Companies get confused about this issue when it comes to truly understanding Loyalty. Let me give you an example that might help clarify a bit more. Let’s say you continually put out “DEALS” to your customers and they keep coming back to purchase your latest deals. Maybe today it is a BOGO offer (buy one get one free), or tomorrow a “Buy two get one free”, or possibly a “Get a free gift with every purchase” offer the next day. You know the offers and the companies that do this all the time for a whole host of products. Are you loyal to them…or are you loyal to their Deals? Do you TRUST THEM or simply shop their deals?

Now look at companies that take a different approach. Instead of offering you these specials, they offer you an incredible experience when you interact with them…they treat you like you are special and they do things for you that are incredibly helpful. They are proactive in helping you when you’re not buying anything because they have taken time to get to know you and your personal preferences. Are you loyal to them? Do you TRUST THEM?

I know…it’s a bit obvious when I put it like this…but it’s really this simple…and this is how it is being presented to you, the customer.

In the first example, there is no question YOU ARE LOYAL TO THE DEAL, NOT THE COMPANY. Just to prove this point, ask yourself what happens to your customers when you don’t offer a deal or when one of your many competitors offers a better deal? THE CUSTOMER LEAVES. They don’t stay because they trust you…they stay because they are loyal to the deal. That’s all they are loyal to and unless you stay on the “deal drug” and keep offering them some new deal, they are gone.

And today, with the massive presence of Groupon, Living Social, and a host of other “deal sites” can you really compete on the deal any longer? How willing are you to discount your products/services by 35-85% on a regular basis? And if you do make these discounts, do you really think these customers are coming back when your products/services aren’t discounted? Your fooling yourself if you think they will come back because they know see how good you are…they don’t. They are loyal to the deal…not your company.

Take a simple example…pizza. There are tons of pizza places around…including the big chains like Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Papa Murphy’s (lots of papas in pizza), Dominos and a host of others. They frequently compete on deals. When someone wants a pizza, they will shop their top 2 or 3 pizza places and pick the one that has the better deal. The customer considers their product to be roughly equal with others…at least close enough where they can’t differentiate it significantly. So they shop for the best deal, not the business…they are loyal to the deal, not the business.

But in the description above where the company is all about helping their customers and giving them an awesome experience, there is no question YOU ARE LOYAL TO THE COMPANY AND THE EXPERIENCE, NOT THE DEAL (they probably don’t even offer deals). You buy from them because of the way they make you feel and their product/service is also of great quality. You are loyal to them because you know how you will be treated every time and it is consistent. You are also appreciative that they offer quality products/services to go along with an awesome experience. They are loyal to you and your business…and they trust you to deliver this to them…every time.

Go back to the pizza example. Now instead of shopping to see which pizza place is going to give you the best deal, you go to your favorite pizza joint…knowing the price is going to be higher. You love walking in where they know your name and what you like on your pizza. They ask about your family, your job, and a host of other personal items they have taken time to know about you. They even give you some really cool things you find valuable about pizza…such as how to make one at home when you want to have a group over to make pizzas. They offer you insights into many other aspects of pizza and cooking and ingredients that will help you enjoy your pizza…such as how to reheat certain types of pizza. You wouldn’t think about going anywhere else for pizza…YOU ARE LOYAL AND YOU TRUST THEM.

What does “LOYALTY” or “DEALS” look like in your own business. When companies say they have 60% loyal customers, are they loyal to “the deal” or are they “loyal to the experience and company”? This is a great introspective review for any company. If you offer deals and took them away, would you see an immediate drop in sales? If you don’t offer deals, do you see an increase in revenues because your loyal customers keep coming back and buying even more? These are just of few of the questions leaders should be challenging their business with to help define whether they have created TRUST with their customers or simply deal loyalty.

And here’s one more wrinkle to put into the mix while you are evaluating where you are on the loyalty curve. What if you have both…customers only loyal to the deals and customers that are loyal to your experience? This can happen for a business…which creates significant confusion to both employees and customers. If you find yourself in this situation, you should evaluate if you are offering the deals to the wrong customers…customers that really aren’t in your desired target persona market. In most cases you will find you are…and the wrong customers are driving the revenue only when the deals are present. Stop the deals and they leave…offer the deals they stay. It’s time to fire these customers…

If you truly want to build TRUST AND LOYALTY in your business, create an experience and strategy that causes your customers to be loyal to your company, not the deals. Create a plan that gives them an incredible experience and lots of help in improving their own lives. Focus on these two elements and you will be shocked at just how much customer loyalty you can create in your company. And in the end, profitability goes up because your “cost of sale” goes down while revenues go up. You are investing in the customers that reward you with their wallets and their loyalty.

If you decide you would rather focus on a “loyalty to the deal” strategy, then you have admitted you are a COMMODITY. That’s fine, as long as you can consistently win in the commodity game. I personally don’t believe this is a stable or long term solution. But if you have the business built around being able to do this consistently and for long periods of time, stay focused on the deal. I personally haven’t met any companies that can pull this off. If you are one of these, I would love to talk with you…

CUSTOMER AGENTS…Key to Reaching Higher Levels and being LONELY

Creating Customer Agents increases Sales and Marketing efforts by leveraging your customersMost of the time we focus on the crowds…what is everyone doing…are we part of the trend…do we fit into this group or that group of businesses…are we recognized in a certain segment in the industry. These are the wrong measures of success in the new economy we live in…LONELINESS is the new measure of success.

In today’s fast moving world, it doesn’t take very long for someone new to enter into your market…light years faster than it did only 10 or 20 years ago. The internet has given us many things…one of which is the ability for someone to spot an opportunity in ANY industry and become a player…usually a very good player. So HOW DO YOU GET TO HIGHER LEVELS if there are so many more companies trying to take a piece of your action in your industry?

There are now countless examples of companies like Uber, AirBnB, and Tesla that have entered into markets thought to be almost sacred and impervious to outsiders coming in and becoming relevant. Not the case any longer…it is now an accepted part of our business climate. Businesses are popping up everywhere, in almost any industry where you they see an opportunity to offer something new and/or improved over the current model. And where there are “fat margins” they find ways to thin them out and dominate by taking a significant amount of market share. This will only continue.

Every market is getting more and more crowded with competition…either new entrants or companies expanding services/products into other industries. Where you used to think you had a handful of competitors has now turned into a crowd of competitors…all trying to squeeze out a percentage of the market share. Where you used to own 20% of the market in the past, now you might own only 10% (or less)…not because you did anything different but because there are more competitors for your customers to choose from and siphon off your customer base. I hear this all the time when I speak to business leaders in virtually every industry.

So how do you strengthen your company to a point where you can stop this from happening or even increase your position in the market from where you are today? It’s really tough to do this with just your own internal resources…in fact, you have probably already tried this and are seeing less than desirable results. But for most companies, THERE IS ONE THING THEY ARE MISSING…

THEY AREN’T EMPLOYING THEIR CUSTOMERS AS THEIR SALES AND MARKETIN AGENTS in the market.

Every company has limited resources they can use on sales and marketing as a percent of their overall revenues. So when you have reached the peak and tried to make those as efficient as possible, what do you do next? This is one of the key areas that keeps companies from moving to higher levels…unless you ALLOW YOUR CUSTOMERS TO HELP YOU.

Creating a strategy that turns your customers into sales and marketing agents for your company is a way to go beyond your limited resources. It allows you to use the power of your customers and their networks to help “sell and market” your organization. What exactly is this strategy? It’s all about CREATING SOMETHING OF HIGH RELEVANCE AND VALUE THAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT TO SHARE WITH OTHERS.

Think of Apple…they are a great example of this strategy. And not because they came out with cool new products (which they did) but because they created an experience for their customers they wanted to share with others. In fact, they literally created a “cult of customers” that became their ADVOCATES in the market. These people became their SALES AND MARKETING AGENTS…CUSTOMER AGENTS…where they were happy to help educate and sell Apple products…for Apple…for no pay.

I don’t know about you, but to me, adding more sales with virtually no cost is a pretty good idea! This is what CUSTOMER AGENTS can do for you. It worked for Apple and a host of other companies…like Disney, Starbucks, Zappos, Virgin America, and a host of other incredibly successful companies. They figured out how to harness these Customer Agents to help them increase sales at virtually no cost. They created an army of ADVOCATES in the market that were happy to promote them, spread word-of-mouth, and become their Customer Agents.

This happens because you have something incredibly awesome your customers love and can’t wait to tell others about…something REMARKABLE. And it isn’t what everyone else in your crowded industry is offering…it is unique. And most of the time, it isn’t about the product or service…remember the barrier to entry of a new competitor today is almost completely gone…it is about the EXPERIENCE YOU OFFER TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. This is what they love and this is what they can’t wait to tell others about…becoming your Customer Agents.

If you want to move to the highest possible level in your industry, this is a way you can do it and be possibly the only one at the top of the heap of competitors. It helps you be lonely…because it is LONELY AT THE TOP of the crowded, commoditized industry you are in. If you are the one that has marshalled these customers to become your CUSTOMER AGENTS then no one else will get them (unless you mess things up for them…it’s yours to lose). Having this extra arsenal of sales and marketing agents is what moves you to the LONELY position of being…NUMBER ONE in your industry.

This doesn’t just happen…it is strategic…it takes planning…it takes effort…it takes execution. Everyone likes the idea of it, but only those willing to do these 4 things will be the LONELY one at the top. This is where you, as a business leader, gets to decide if you are willing to commit to these 4 things and invest in creating CUSTOMER AGENTS FOR YOUR ORANGIZATION…are you up to the opportunity?

Stop Marketing for your Competitors

different-person_Mkf5oIuuYour competitors, by definition, sell the same (or similar) products and services to you…that’s why they are competitors. When you advertise and market these products and services, you are essentially marketing these for everyone…including your competition.

What happens when you spend the time and money to promote these products and services and one of your competitors cuts their prices (or other components such as delivery or terms) below yours? If they customer leaves and goes to your competitor because of the pricing, you essentially marketed for your competitors. Only they got “no-cost marketing” because you did it for them. They didn’t spend a dime…you spent the money building the awareness and providing information to their customers.

Does any of this sound like a good marketing and sales strategy? Unfortunately, this is what essentially happens when you have a commodity product or service…in the eyes of your customer.

My strong recommendation is to STOP MARKETING FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS…do something that isn’t a commodity and isn’t marketing for your competition. What is that?

DEVELOP A CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE THAT YOU OWN…IS EXCLUSIVE TO YOUR BUSINESS…IS ONE THAT CREATES SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENTIATION THAT YOUR COMPETITOR CAN’T TAKE ADVATAGE OF BECAUSE IT IS YOURS AND YOURS ALONE.

When you focus on the Customer Experience, you can create whatever you want. And so when you market this experience, your competition can’t take advantage of this and lower a price because they don’t offer it…ONLY YOU OFFER IT. You own your own experience…it is only available through you.

So when you market this experience, YOU ARE MARKETING FOR YOURSELF, NOT YOUR COMPETITORS.

You are marketing something that is unique, different, special, and OWNED ONLY BY YOU! This is the only thing you can completely own and deliver to your customers that CAN’T BE COMMODITIZED. You can customize it, individualize it, make it as special and unique as you want…but your competitors won’t be able to jump on to your marketing and take advantage of all your hard work.

IT’S TIME TO THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT YOUR COMPETITORS… eliminate them from taking advantage of the commodity products/services you might offer. Move this to a completely different level…offer a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE that is so unique, special, and awesome that your competitors become envious instead of leaches.

When you stop marketing for your competitors and start marketing for your own uniqueness, your brand, and your experience, customers notice. They see something very different…they see something REMARKABLE. And when customers see this, they CAN’T WAIT TO TELL OTHERS about you and why working with/buying from you is so incredible…and remarkable.

Now you have moved from doing the marketing for your competitors to marketing for yourself…and best of all…allowing your customers to market for you through the most powerful form of marketing that has ever existed…WORD-OF-MOUTH. And when you combine this with a strategic and leveraged social media strategy, you can create Word-of-Mouth on Steroids. This is a much better use of your marketing dollars, gets you better results, and helps you build a DIFFERENTIATED BRAND.

Your Customers Don’t Care about Your Search Rankings…WHY You Shouldn’t Either

SEO_Tag_Cloud_Dollarphotoclub_51269947When someone talks about being ranked #1 on Google (or Bing, Yahoo, or other choices) search pages, or improving their SEO (search engine optimization) people get excited…they want to be number one. Who wouldn’t, right? Here’s why you might not necessarily care about being number one on Google.

Google has gotten very good over the past several years…they are very sophisticated in their search algorithms and how they rank various listings on their pages. Today, I don’t believe you can be effective trying to “trick” Google like many have done in past years (even though there are still companies selling these services…avoid them). Tricking Google is not a good strategy…they have thousands of employees finding ways to not let this happen, so you are better to invest in something you can control and doesn’t try to trick the world’s largest search engine.

One thing has been consistent over the past few years…and has been consistently stated by Google. They have told us over and over and made it very clear…CREATE AWESOME CONTENT THAT PEOPLE FIND HELPFUL AND WE WILL RANK YOU HIGHER ON OUR PAGES. What part of this don’t people understand?

WORRING ABOUT YOUR PAGE RANKINGS ON GOOGLE IS NOT YOUR BEST STRATEGY.

The other alternative to focusing on page ranks and trying to get to the top listing is to FOCUS ON CONTENT YOUR AUDIENCE (CUSTOMERS AND OTHERS) WILL LOVE…FIND VERY HELPFUL…AND WANT TO SHARE WITH OTHERS. This is what your audience is begging you for today and really wants…because it helps them in their lives/jobs/business. It is what they are looking for from you…and what they have told us they are interested in reading/seeing/hearing…and they are much more likely to SHARE IT AND CREATE WORD-OF-MOUTH FOR YOU.

However, it might not get you better rankings on Google…it could actually work against you in the search rankings. Why? Because content written that helps your audience might not have the “SEO Structure” of key words or other aspects to help you get the highest rankings on Google. That’s right…if you focus on your audience and give them what they really find valuable, it might not help your Google rankings.

Google will tell you that the best content (most relevant and credible to your audience) will get you the highest rankings. I wish that was the case…but there are still too many companies in the marketplace that have as their primary function the plan to manipulate these any way they can to get you higher on the pages.

My recommendation…GO WITH WHAT GOOGLE TELLS YOU…WRITE TO YOUR AUDIENCE, NOT TO THE SEO PUNDITS.

But the best part is this…if you always write to your audience and they find what you write to be incredibly helpful, relevant, and useful they will share it with your desired audience…AVOIDING THE NEED FOR SEARCH ENGINES ALL TOGETHER. After all, if someone tells you the best place to shop or to work with is XYZ Company and you want to visit their site, you will skip going to Google or any other search engine…there isn’t a need, you simply go directly to their site. This to me is what worries the search engine companies more than anything today…Word-of-Mouth. If you go directly to someone’s website or blog you don’t need the search results page and you don’t need to have a high ranking because your audience isn’t going there to find you.

This is a very critical component to understand about the power of Word-of-Mouth…done perfectly, there isn’t a need for search engine rankings!! Your existing audience of customers and advocates are SENDING YOUR DESIRED AUDIENCE DIRECTLY TO YOU.  That to me is the ultimate goal of all of this content you are producing to help your audience. Helping your audience in a way where they don’t need search engines to find you…our audience knows where to tell them to go to find you. If every business did this we would eventually eliminate the SEO companies that are trying to sell strategies to beat Google.

I have always believed this is a losers game…one where you eventually lose. I know this will upset a lot of people and I will get lots of rebuttals, but in the end, it just makes good common sense. Building a strategy where your customers are constantly sharing more and more of your content with more and more prospective customers because your content is top notch and incredibly helpful and gives them considerable value is a winner’s game.

This is simple…WRITE TO YOUR AUDIENCE (CURRENT AND PROSPECTIVE) IN A WAY THAT GIVES THEM INCREDIBLE VALUE AND HELP IN WHATEVER THEY ARE DOING…PERIOD.

Let your competition play the search and SEO games…your customers will thank you for it and be more loyal than any search engine can ever deliver. Focusing on how you can help your customer will never go out of style…regardless of the technology and those that prey on manipulative methods. Stay with what Google has been telling us for some time now…write to your audience, not for search rankings and SEO and you will WIN!

Customer Service is a Risky Strategy

Risk Management - smallerCustomer Service by its very nature is a “reactionary” process most organizations create to solve customer issues. THIS IS NOT A STRATEGY.

Customer Service was created to handle issues, problems, complaints, and anything else that occurred when “things went wrong” with the customer. We needed someone to call…someone inside the company that could be a “first line of defense” before we deployed our most valuable talent. As a group, they are the front line for the organization to figure out what went wrong, determine the sense of urgency, determine the risk involved, and then, and only then, direct it to the appropriate group to engage.

Companies found early on that if the customer could call directly into tech support, or shipping, or operations, or accounting, or any other department, it would be a “distraction” for these people to do work. These were our some of our highest paid employees and we couldn’t waste this valuable resource fielding customer issues. Thus, Customer Service call centers and other groups were created…the first line of defense.

I have no argument that this was an efficient and effective solution…for the company…not the customer.

My question for any business leader is whether or not having a customer service department, as described above, is the right strategy. I don’t believe it should be a strategy…nor do I believe it should be a department that is fielding issue calls from customers. It’s admitting that the company is doing things that cause issues with our customers. Further, it is allowing our “most valuable asset” (our customers) to speak to what ends up being some of the lowest paid employees inside the organization…as our first line of defense against an issue.

The first question to answer is for yourself…do you personally enjoy calling most customer service departments? Of course not…it WASTES YOUR TIME! The company is essentially saying our time is more valuable than your time because we want to put you through our customer service group…a group that can’t solve our issue most of the time instead of allowing you to speak to the person that can solve your issue.

THIS IS A REACTIVE STRATEGY…NOT A PROACTIVE STRATEGY.

A proactive strategy says we are going to PUT THE CUSTOMER FIRST in everything we do and in every part of the organization. We are going to figure out what could possibly go wrong and put in processes and mechanisms to stop the majority of issues from happening. We don’t want any calls to our customer service group…it says we failed at preempting the issues and solving your problems before they are a problem or an issue.

THE GOAL SHOULD BE TO PUT THE CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT OUT OF BUSINESS.

If we knew our customers well enough…if we had processes in place that stopped the majority of issues from every happening…we could virtually eliminate the customer service department. This might sound too good to be true, but ask yourself is it possible. It might be difficult, but is it impossible? I don’t think so…and your customer doesn’t think so either. Your customer hates this process…they hate talking to front line people who can’t solve their problem so they have to waste more of their time with your company. No matter what concessions you give, you can’t give back the most valuable thing to your customers…THEIR TIME. This is what they don’t want to lose…they want to have more of it.

Develop a strategy that is 100% about your customer…it’s called Customer Centricity (or being Obsessed with your customer as I call it). This is a PRESCRIPTIVE and PROACTIVE STRATEGY…one that help you virtually eliminate the need for customer service. It is also a strategy your employees and certainy your customers will love and get energized about it.

This is the STRATEGY OF THE FUTURE for virtually every business on the planet!

If customer service is a big part of your strategy…change it. Spend the time and resources to develop a CUSTOMER OBSESSED STRATEGY that will help you create significant differentiation and profitability well into the future.

We left the Industrial Revolution behind about a decade ago…now we are flying at Mach speed into what is now being called the CISTOMER REVOLUTION or CUSTOMER ECONOMY. Companies won’t survive this Customer Revolution by focusing on customer service…it is merely a reaction to something gone wrong.

According to Accenture Strategy, 64% of consumers switched at least one of their providers because of poor service in 2014. And here’s what makes it even worse…because of the mass adoption of social media…77% of customers, following a bad experience with a company, will tell others. In other words, not only did a bad experience with cost them 2/3 of their customers, but ¾ of their customers went out of their way to tell others about it. When you do the simple math, assuming each consumer has (conservatively) about 500 connections, friends, and followers, if you upset only 10 customers (a tiny number) you potentially had almost 4,000 people hearing about it…from only 10 customers.

The goal of any organization should be to avoid these numbers, not recover from them or build in departments or strategies to “handle” them. The goal should be to eliminate them and reduce them down to zero. While it might not be completely attainable, it’s the right goal to shoot for and strive to achieve.

If you want to eliminate the reactive aspects and grow your business faster you need to switch from Customer Service to being CUSTOMER OBSESSED. If you think you are, here are 3 simple questions you should ask yourself and your leadership team…

  1. Do we have a reasonable investment in our customer service program and a team supporting this function?
  2. Are our processes throughout the organization built around the “customer first” strategy where everything is designed to make the customers life better…ahead of any benefit to us?
  3. If we interviewed 100 of your customers and asked them a simple question, “Do you feel this company is obsessed with delivering you an incredible and remarkable experience more than their focus on delivering their products/services?” If they give you a resounding yes, then you are more of a customer obsessed company than you are a product/service company that provides customer service.

Take the challenge and ask the questions. It will help enlighten you to what strategy you really have around your customers. If it is a strategy based on customer service, you may be more at risk than you think…it is time to rethink your strategy for survival into the future of the Customer Economy. This is the time to take advantage of an incredible opportunity for you and your company that could put you on a trajectory of differentiation, more growth, and profitability.

Think about “proactively eliminating” customer issues before they happen by being completely obsessed about your customer instead of building departments that have to “react” to issues. It’s a completely different way to look at your organization…but it is the way your customers look at your organization every day.

Are you Selling HAMMERS…or delivering DREAMS?

Providing value through content can turn a commodity into an opportunityThe word VALUE has been around a very long time…and I’m sure it has changed definitions many times throughout the years depending on what point in time you were asking about it. But in the new Revolution we are currently living in, I believe Value has a very different definition and certainly new ways to be delivered and brought to life.

Value isn’t always about the SALE or the transaction…it is about HOW ARE YOU HELPING ME DO BETTER AT WHAT I DO. This to me is where real value shows itself. Someone can purchase a product or service from you any time…but did they receive value? Unless it truly helped them in some recognizable way they won’t perceive it as providing value. Your product/service might fill a “need” for them but did it really provide value to helping them improve their life?

I prefer a simpler method to assess VALUE with customers…WORD-OF-MOUTH.

Take a simple example…a hammer. You could sell them the best hammer available in the market…but if all they wanted to do was pound in a few nails you simply met a need. They don’t perceive this as something with incredible value, but it solved their issue and met their needs. However, if you knew they had a budding interest in building things, you could start to share with them some simple plans on how to build a birdhouse or a doghouse or a dollhouse or something they could start with and be successful. Give them simple, easy to follow steps on how to really use the hammer in a way to build something creative and beautiful. Then show them how to use it for other purposes around the house that didn’t involve hammering nails, such as pulling things off or apart or hammering things that might be out of alignment. NOW YOU HAVE ADDED SIGNIFICANT VALUE to the simple hammer. A tool went to something they see has incredible value to them in helping them in their lives.

Take this a step further and you will begin to see the real value in this strategy of HELPING vs. MEETING A NEED. What happens next is where YOU start to see the real value in this approach…the CUSTOMER STARTS TALKING ABOUT YOU AND SHARING YOUR CONTENT.

Extend the example above of the hammer to see how this can work. Let’s say the person you helped built a dollhouse for his daughter based on what you helped him with in learning how to use the hammer. They have friends over for dinner who also have a little girl. You show them your new dollhouse and they go nuts…they want one. They want to build their own and the immediately ASK YOU how you made it happen. You immediately tell them about “the hammer company” that helped you all the way through it so you could create it and all you wanted was to hammer in a few nails. What do they immediately do…start following, checking out, and most likely purchasing your hammer and want to get all the VALUE you offer in helping them build the dollhouse.

Extend the hammer example one final step. When they have both finished building their dollhouses, they are very proud of them but they also see the joy this brings their little girls. They take pictures of her big smiles playing with the dollhouse you just built…lots of them…AND THEY SHARE THEM ON THEIR FAVORITE SOCIAL CHANNELS. They are proud of what they created because it made their daughter happy and they want to share it…a lot. Their message reaches thousands of people…just like them…many of whom would love to build a dollhouse if they only knew how…your company now is the one that gets to help all of them…using your hammer and all the value content you provide to guide them through the process.

If you sold only 10 hammers but provided this value to these people, they just reached 10,000+ people (based on the average person having a minimum of 1000 social connections). Not all will buy a hammer…but they now know about you if they ever do…many will buy the hammer…from you!

The hammer was designed to drive in a nail. You turned it into an adventure and something of INCREDIBLE VALUE for the right audience. You turned a simple product into a dream. You brought a whole new meaning to the hammer for these customers. YOU BROUGHT THEM VALUE.

Word-of-Mouth about the latest “deal” or “bargain” isn’t true Word-of-Mouth…it’s an aberration (more on that in another post). It’s simply passing along the word about a better deal on a commodity you can now get cheaper today than yesterday…NO VALUE.

Word-of-Mouth that is delivered out of providing incredible value, a dream, something that really helps improve someone’s life is true word-of-mouth and is what gets talked about over and over and over again. It has the “long tail” of conversation because it stirred PASSION and FEELINGS in the person. And when you bring these to life with your product or service, you get passionate word-of-mouth. This is what gets spread…because you added honest and deep value to someone’s life.

Ask yourself this question, “Is what we are doing with our products and services adding value that stirs passion and feelings of happiness and truly improves the lives of our customers?” If the answer is no, I would strongly suggest you take a deeper look into what you are really providing. My guess is you are solving a NEED, not delivering TRUE VALUE.

As with the simple example of the hammer (nothing more than a simple commodity product), I personally believe you can turn the most mundane, non-exciting products/services into something that brings incredible value to your customers…so they will talk about you…a lot…and help you with your marketing and sales efforts by telling tens of thousands of others how you helped the with their dreams, not their needs. That is DIFFERENTIATION IN A COMMODITIZED WORLD.

Is the hammer you’re selling solving a NEED or delivering a DREAM? Gut check time…