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Nice guys finish last? I don’t think so!

At least not according to data compiled by AYTM Market Research.  According to a recent article by eMarketer, AYTM’s report shows that over 52% of internet users prefer small businesses to large companies because of “Personal Service”.  Additional surveys by Web.com and Toluna done last August found that the top three most important factors consumers consider when choosing small businesses are: 1) customer service, customer-focused (86%), 2) personal, intimate, human, face-to-face (84%), and 3) knows customers and their needs (84%).   Not surprisingly, 84% of US consumers associate customer service and customer-focus with small businesses.  The eMarketer article also notes that “61.2% of respondents [to the AYTM study] said they would pay higher prices to support small businesses.”

All of those numbers can make a great case for small business, but that is a post for another time.  My take away is this: large business or small, people value superior customer service.  Human beings expect to be treated like human beings, and if you can give them personal and personalized service, they are willing to pay for it.  Give your customers a remarkable experience and they will remark about it…to their family, their friends, their acquaintances, even perfect strangers! Give them a reason to come back and they might just bring the neighborhood with them.

So consider this: if you were receiving the kind of customer service you currently provide to your customers, would you continue doing business with your company?  Would you tell your friends? If you don’t immediately think “Yes!” then something needs to change.  Nice guys finish last?  Not in this connected economy!

Touch All the Lines

Since we’re talking about March Madness this month, I decided to use a little basketball phrase for my blog this month: Touch All the Lines.

For anyone who has played basketball or taken your child to endless basketball practices, this is probably a familiar term and one you might dread. It may conjure up memories of boredom or exhaustion or even bored exhaustion. For those not familiar with basketball, it may seem like an innocuous phrase.

So what does it mean to ‘Touch All the Lines’? In basketball they run practice drills, often called ladders, where a player starts at the baseline (the out of bounds line behind the basket) and then runs out to the free throw line, then runs back to the baseline, then turns around and runs to the half court line and back to the baseline, then to the other side’s free throw line and back to the baseline, and then all the way to the other baseline and back again. Each line (baseline, free throw line, half court line) must be touched with the player’s hand when she reaches it. It may seem like a pointless drill and one that’s easy to cheat on a little, but like most things in life, those seemingly pointless drills have a way of shaping us or preparing us.

Basically, touching all the lines means hard work. To basketball players, those drills prepare and condition them to be able to run full court at full steam for the entire game if needs be. Yes, it’s hard and for some there is a temptation to skimp a little on each line. Do you think the players that consistently skimp on the lines go unnoticed by the coaches? I guarantee they don’t. 

You may not have a coach per se watching to make sure you go to the line every time, but believe me people are watching, whether it’s your boss, coworkers, customers, employees, etc…  People that touch lines generally get more playing time, if you get my drift. Yep, it’s hard and it may seem pointless, but in the end, it will pay-off. If nothing else, you’ll at least have self-respect, which is just as important, if not more so.

And like my Mother always said, “Hard work never killed anyone.”

What are the odds? Marketing musings on March Madness

So you didn’t win $1 billion dollars either?  Given the odds, that’s nothing to feel bad about.  Nobody won.  In fact, no one in recorded history has ever picked a perfect bracket.  It’s almost impossible just to pick a perfect first round!  Out of tens of millions of brackets, I am aware of only 1 individual this year that did that, but his bracket was busted just 4 games later leaving him 27 games short of the once-again-unattainable 63-0 bracket perfection.

As a marketer, I am impressed  each year with the amount of attention the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament receives regardless of any paid advertising.  If you didn’t fill out a bracket, you likely know someone that did.  It’s not just for die-hards or even everyday fans anymore – it’s fun for everyone, like my 12- and 10-year-old sons, who despite terrible odds, picked their favorite team to go to the finals and win (and yes, both of their brackets were busted in the first round). People that otherwise could not care less and fans alike obsess over making their picks and trying to win it all in their company pool or among their peers.  Filling out brackets seems to have consistently grown in popularity, but in so doing it has also become commonplace.  You can submit brackets at work, at church, at countless sports related websites, and a thousand other places.

And don’t forget Quicken. Their billion dollar bracket challenge was excellent at breaking through the noise with something new and fresh.  It was something so ludicrous it was all over the internet, all over social media, and all over the news in no time.  I haven’t run into anyone that did not hear about it. A billion dollars? Just for picking the perfect bracket, something I’ll be doing anyway? With no entry fee? (Well, not in dollars at least.) Count me in!

At first it sounded like a potentially risky bet, but what were the odds? According to mathematician Jeff Bergen of DePaul University, the odds of randomly picking a perfect bracket are less then 1 in 9 quintillion – that’s a 9 followed by 18 zeros.  Add a bit of knowledge to your selection process and you can up the odds to 1 in 128 billion.  A few months ago I wrote a piece about one of my Grandad’s favorite sayings: you can’t win if you don’t play.   Given those odds though, this contest seemed like one that you could never win no matter how many times you played.  You are much, much more likely to win the Mega Millions lottery, become president, or die by vending machine than you would be to pick a perfect bracket.

Which all adds up to what? A brilliant marketing stunt centered around a very popular event with a very low risk; one that generated untold buzz and attention, not to mention a lot of data on a lot of folks for Quicken.  Data they could then use to show the value of their products to a targeted group of individuals.

So what are you doing to capture your customers’ attention and add a little enjoyment to their interactions with your brand? What are the odds that your potential and current customers come away from those interactions feeling like they got real value out of it? Are you marketing to them individually, targeting their needs and wants? Stunts can be fun and even worthwhile, but at the end of the day, odds are that the end goal is to build lasting relationships and provide real value that will pay dividends in the long run.  And that is a win-win for everyone.

Is it mobile?

Gadget ownership over timeSeven months ago my daughter was 1; 1 day old, that is. It still feels like she just got here, but the differences between a newborn and a 7-month-old are significant. She has changed a lot in that time. Comparing now to then it is easy to see the differences, but not so much along the way.

Things change, often faster than not, and if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss it, which could mean missing out.

For example, 7 months ago Pew Research reported that 35% of U.S. cell phone owners use mobile banking1. That was up nearly 20% over the previous 2 years.  Just 1 month ago they updated their statistics on mobile technology noting that 55% of U.S. adults own a smartphone2 – up approximately 10% from 1 year previous, and over 20% from 3 years ago. Tablets are rising even faster with 42% of U.S. adults in the tablet ownership category – up from just 3% in May 2010.

In many ways mobile still feels fresh and new (and no doubt it still is compared to other media formats), but it has already become ubiquitous.  My wife and I have never been “early adopters”, yet she got her tablet (which I still consider relatively new) 2 years ago, putting her in the first 20% of tablet ownership.  Ownership has over doubled since then! It is no longer a matter of “if” or even “when” for mobile – the question is “what”. What are you doing about mobile now?

Seven months ago, mobile was here. It was not a fad or a trend.  But it is changing, growing, evolving. More people than ever are using smartphones, more are using tablets, and even more are going to in the weeks and months ahead.  If you are not doing something about it now, you are missing out. So the question you need to ask yourself about your online advertising is:

Is it mobile?

Oops

I think it can be said that the measure of a person or even a company can be seen in how they react to mistakes. I think we can all say that there was quite a big oops during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics when that pesky fifth ring didn’t light properly. Yes, it was a mistake and it was embarrassing, but there was no going back and fixing it. So what to do?

It would have been easy to lash out at the critics and comedians that got quite a bit of airtime in dishing about the failure. But instead the director of the games turned the tables and made fun of himself and in turn took a negative and turned it into a positive.

During the closing ceremonies several ice dancers took the stage and lit it up to reenact that oops, it was brilliant. You can see the picture here – http://www.olympic.org/photos/sochi-2014-closing-ceremony-41. Immediately I thought, I would love to meet that guy or work with him.

We all make mistakes, personally and professionally. If you don’t, then I want to meet you too and know your secret. Sometimes those mistakes are monumental and they take a lot of smoothing over, but regardless, the best thing we can do is acknowledge them and refrain from becoming defensive and, if appropriate, try to find some humor in it. Hopefully, you can help the recipient of your mistake find some humor in it too (again if appropriate).  And remember mistakes are unintentional. If you’re intentionally messing up, then this blog probably isn’t for you.

If you’ve made a mistake with a customer, apologize immediately and try to remedy the situation as soon as possible. I think you will find most people will be understanding when you take this course of action.  Of course, there are always those few that will take you through the ringer, but just remember it was a mistake and not to beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and move on.

And just remember to be thankful that our mistakes aren’t televised and publicized for the whole world to see.

Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Marketing Lessons from Grandad: Lesson #5. Hang by your…

Hang by your thumbs, and write if you get work!  That was Grandad’s sign off when he wrote letters, or his “farewell” when he left our house or we left his.  He always said it with a grin on his face – a funny thought if you consider what the saying literally infers.  But for Grandad it was just a humorous way to say “Hang in there! It’ll all work out! You can make it, and when you do, I want to hear about it and celebrate your success!”

As marketers, are we connecting on a personal level?  Are we offering encouragement to and building trust with individuals?  Are we trying to put a smile on their faces, and when they buy what we’re selling, are we celebrating their successes?

It’s a new year, and that brings a new opportunity to market with purpose and meaning; to create and share something remarkable and worth sharing. If you’re not quite there yet, don’t give up.  Just hang by your thumbs, and write if you get work!

20 Years

I recently came across an old proverb that really struck a chord with me- “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” I thought it was very fitting for the New Year. I think I also liked it since I will be married for 20 years this year and as I look back, I can see the fruit of the trees that were planted 20 years ago, but as always I wished I would have planted more trees in my orchard of life or maybe pruned and cared for some of those trees a little better.

But the proverb is hopeful. Just because we didn’t plant a tree 20 years ago, we still can. And there is no better time than the present. 20 years may seem like a long time. I know I thought that 20 years ago as a young bride, but looking back it seems like 20 years has flown by.

So, if you could look into the future 20 years from now, what would you like to see both professionally and personally? And what do you need to do now to make sure you realize those dreams or goals. Maybe you want to become an industry leader or innovator. Maybe you want to retire or get a better paying job. Maybe you just want to be a better person or less negative. All of these items start with planting a seed or seedling.

A first step would be to write it down and then map out a plan and then keep that out where you can see, even better tell someone else about it too. Someone you can be accountable to.  I have a friend who, when she sets a goal, she always tells a few of us and she expects us to ask her about it.  It has worked well for her. Then don’t look back unless it’s to see how far you have come. Remember it takes a long time to grow a tree, especially if you’re starting from a seed.

So what seeds are you going to plant this year?

 

Marketing Lessons from Grandad: Lesson #4. It pays to be…

Grateful!  When Grandad was a young boy living on a ranch in the mountains of Colorado, his dad gave him a pony to ride.  Grandad felt like a real cowboy.  His younger brother Robert got a pony, too, and it didn’t take long for Grandad to notice that Robert’s horse was thinner and faster than his own.  As the older of the two, that didn’t seem right; he should have the faster pony, and his baby brother the slower, fatter, safer horse.  Determined to improve his situation as he saw it, my grandfather approached his dad about making the trade.  He made his case about being older and needing the faster horse, and his father agreed to the trade.

Not long after the trade, Grandad was made aware that Robert’s pony was pregnant. She gave birth to a colt that was sold, and the money from the sale was deposited into an account for Robert.  Poor Grandad! Not only was Robert’s pony now thinner and faster, he also had money in the bank that could have been Grandad’s.  Grandad recalled that Robert  got even richer selling 1 or 2 more colts from that pony.

It was a hard lesson but one that stuck with him: it pays (quite literally) to be grateful for what you have.

At this holiday season, are you showing gratitude for what you have?  Do those who have taken a chance on you feel that gratitude?  Take a minute to say thanks.  Make an effort to show it all year, and it will pay dividends in the end.

P.S. Thanks for reading!  One last “Marketing Lessons from Grandad” is coming in December.

So I moustache you a question?

Now that Movember is coming to an end, I thought I would do a poll in our office as I happen to be the only female that works here. You see, none of the men in my office grew moustaches in November and I wondered if they even knew about Movember? (Or perhaps their wives nixed their participation.)

Questions:

  1. Have you ever heard of Movember?
  2. Do you know how or why Movember began?

Results:

  1. Only 50% had ever heard of Movember. It may be good to note that it was the younger half that had heard of it. Those that frequently use social media.
  2. Of those that had heard of Movember only half of them knew that it began as a way to bring awareness to men’s health issues like prostate cancer. And this was the even younger half.

This was obviously not a scientific poll, but I believe there are a couple of noteworthy things to learn from this. First of all, the effects of social media – we know this is how the younger generations communicate and receive information. I wouldn’t consider myself a younger generation, but social media plays a role in my life especially since I have teenagers and lots of cousins that are younger than me and this is their preferred method of communication. I had quite a few male cousins, all younger than me participate in Movember and I have thoroughly enjoyed the postings of their moustaches through the month.

I should also note that the older men in my office were not aware of Movember at all and do not use social media frequently, if at all . While I agree social and digital media are the best and most economical ways to reach audiences, we shouldn’t discount traditional types of advertising all together. In the end, it’s all about who your target audience is.

Of course these younger generations are only getting older and the generations coming up will only be more entrenched in social and digital media, so there is no time like the present to jump on that bandwagon if you haven’t already.

And just for fun, here are the rules for Movember:

  1. Once registered at Movember.com each Bro must begin the 1st of November with a clean-shaven face.
  2. For the entire month of November each Mo Bro must grow and groom a moustache.
  3. There is to be no joining of the Mo to your side burns. (That’s considered a beard.)
  4. There is to be no joining of the handlebars to your chin. (That’s considered a goatee.)
  5. Each Bro must conduct himself like a true country gentleman.

So I moustache you a question:

Did you, or anyone you know personally, participate in Movember?

Are You Afraid of Your Customers?

I think as humans one of our greatest fears is the unknown.  Unknown means not within the range of one’s knowledge, experience, or understanding; strange; unfamiliar. It’s no wonder we fear the unknown. Isn’t amazing how, as we gain familiarity with something that may frighten us or we gain more insight, our fears dissipate. That’s not to say we completely overcome our fear, but when we have knowledge, we’re better able to cope and deal with things that may be unpleasant to us.

During this Halloween season there is one thing we needn’t be afraid of anymore…our customers. Sure there will always be a scary few we want to avoid like the plague, but for the most part, the more you learn about your customers, the happier you both will be.

Why? First of all, your customer will be less annoyed by the pesky mass market emails you send out, especially the ones they receive about products they already have and may have just purchased at a higher price than you’re advertising now. No need to rub that in. Think how giddy they’ll be when they log in to your website and see only digital display ads for products they actually qualify for and want.

Secondly, when you get to know your customers and they actually become people to you, it will change how you serve them, and you’ll end up liking them even more. It’s a great paradox, but one that actually works. I dare you to try it!

So, quit hiding behind your desk and your excuses this season and boldly go where few are willing to. Dive into the deep pools of data and take a few laps around. You’ll find the exercise quite invigorating and probably even healthy for your bottom line.

Happy Halloween, Y’all!