February 2012 - c3centricity | c3centricity

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4 Steps to Driving Online Advertising Click Through

Earlier this year emarketer.com announced that in 2012 more money will be spent on online advertising in the US than on advertising in newspapers and magazines combined!

It is clear that one reason for the shift is that the audience advertisers are attempting to reach has shifted.  Newspaper and magazine readership continues to decline while online audiences continue to grow.  Another reason emarketer.com gives for the shift is that online advertising is a more measureable medium.  Impressions, engagement with Social Media actives and sales are all measured.  Every online advertiser also receives up to the minute reporting on click through.

But, just because an audience’s exposure and response to advertising online is measureable, does not necessarily mean that advertisers have cracked the code on what gets a target engaged enough with an online ad to motivate click through – to motivate them to divert their attention long enough to learn more about your br and.  Google reported last year that average click through rates st and at .09% a decline from .1% two years ago.  So as advertiser’s ability to more specifically target advertising to its intended online audience increases, the audience’s tendency to click continues to drop.

After studying 93 online ads with over 600,000,000 impressions and click rates ranging from 1.22% to .03%, PhaseOne Communications identified 4 key steps any advertiser can implement to increase their odds of success:

 

Step 1:  Draw the eye

Recognizing that web users are visiting a site for a purpose other than ad viewing, this may be one of the hardest jobs an online ad has to do.  Consumers are accustomed to tuning banners out.  Therefore, advertisements have to do something to capture attention.  From our study, two key methods for grabbing attention were found to be most successful 1)  ensuring your banner has contrasting colors to the site on which it appears and 2) incorporating motion of some kind.   In this study, only one ad in the highest ranges was static with no motion at all.  Google reported in August of last year that 250X250 pixel ads using Flash averaged a click through rate of .26%.

 

Step 2: Engage the mind

As soon as the eye is drawn to the online ad, it is imperative that there is something to engage the mind.  This can be accomplished by arousing curiosity, perhaps tapping into messaging or context from other media or incorporating emotional appeals by pulling at the heart strings.  What you must avoid is an online ad that is cluttered.  An online ad that attempts to include everything about a br and basically gives your audience permission to NOT become engaged.

 

Step 3:  Don’t tell the whole story – create the desire to learn more

The most successful online advertisements are those that are not self contained — they do not reveal the whole story.  While an online ad that successfully breaks through the clutter, engages its audience and delivers a differentiating, self-contained br and story can be successful at influencing its audience, its likelihood of being clicked drops dramatically.   The most successful ads entice its audience to want more information.

 

Step 4:  Facilitate the action

This step may sound obvious, but believe it or not 82% of the ads with the highest click through literally asked for it (e.g., “click here”).

As you can see, developing strong, highly clickable online advertising is not rocket science.  Yet, in today’s high pressured world, marketers often times overlook the most obvious.  Recognizing that each element of an advertisement is either contributing to engaging your audience and bringing them closer to your br and or working against you, it’s important to take just a little time to ensure those things  known to drive success are incorporated.

Happy Clicking!

For more information about C3Centricity’s partner PhaseOne Communications, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/about/

Become a Master Trainer in 6 Easy Steps

I read recently that training is only for animals, not for humans, and that I should be educating not giving training courses!

Whichever word you prefer to use I hope that like me you enjoy teaching and learning; I have always believed that a day without learning is a day without living, and I strive to find something new to appreciate every day.

 

Several of my major clients recently asked me for help in improving their br and building efforts. Whilst this is certainly a good thing, I do wonder sometimes how many courses and workshops really make a difference to the way things are done. I am not dismissing workshops at all, in fact I regularly give training courses but I do appreciate it can be a challenge when you’re facing a roomful of adults and peers.

Adult learning is very different from teaching younger people in that by nature we are not as open to change, preferring to stay with our habits, even when we have been shown that a new way of thinking or doing might be better. As if that isn’t bad enough, we also generally don’t like group-learning experiences led by a professional.

Since I know many of you get involved in adult training within your own organisations, I thought it would be useful for me to share some of my own learnings, to help you do it with even more success.

To quote one of my favourite masters, Confucius:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I underst and”

Keeping this in mind and applying it to adult learning here are my 6 tips:

 #1. Underst and the motivations for attendance

Adults usually have high expectations, so it is important to clarify and articulate objectives within the first hour. Collect and review them before you get into the content, as well as at the end of the course to get agreement on whether or not they have been met. If people believe they have been heard, they are much more likely to at least be open to considering the new ideas and processes you will share.

Participants will also have many different reasons for attending a workshop or training session and you need to accept that perhaps very few will have actually chosen to be there. They might therefore resent their participation, have little if any interest in the topic, no respect for your experience and knowledge, or the ideas you have to share. Whilst it is unlikely that you will make them all change their minds, it is critical that you become aware of these opinions as they will remain undercurrents during the whole duration of the course.

 

#2. Keep sessions very focused

This (lack of) motivation will also mean that adult learners tend to be less interested in st andard courses, because they feel they are different from most of the other participants. They are more likely to prefer courses around one precise concept or idea, and which will focus specifically on the application of the tools and processes designed to respond to a relevant problem or opportunity. It is therefore usually better to run a number of shorter one-topic sessions, than a week-long course covering several different ideas around a subject if at all possible. This will improve the likelihood of participants actioning their learnings afterwards, as well as reducing, if not completely eliminating, the need for frequent interruptions or absences due to the dem ands of work.

 

#3. Build new learning on top of known processes and tools

Participants will bring a large amount of their own experiences into the classroom, which can be a tremendous asset if you can tap into it. They will learn much better if they engage in dialogue and it will anyway be difficult to stop most of them from sharing their ideas, so best to control rather than stop them from doing so.

People are not naturally open to learning new tools, processes and ways of thinking, so you are likely to meet with more success if you base your new ideas on what is already known. Build and exp and on current processes, showing how the additions and changes will be more beneficial. Learning is a means to an end for adults, not an end in itself as it is for most kids. Increasing or maintaining participants’ sense of self-esteem is a strong secondary motivator; adults can take errors personally, so they tend to take fewer risks and push to defend known solutions rather than to try new approaches.

 

#4. Vary speed

Adults have a similarly short attention span to children, but not for the same reasons. Again whether due to a lack of willingness to consider different ways of working, or a feeling of superiority, adults will want things to progress fast and will lose interest if the program is not presented at their own personally preferred rhythm. For this reason you should vary the speed of sessions, covering some topics deeply and some more quickly. Don’t worry about missing in thoroughness though, as you can always go back to resume and deepen the topic later in the day or in a follow-up session.

 

#5. Include breakout sessions

Another solution to this increased likelihood for boredom is to provide more frequent breakout sessions. Whereas in normal workshops a coffee / tea break is provided in addition to lunch, you should include more reasons to have people get up and move around. Use group breakout exercises, physical tasks, sortings, puzzles, Q&A and even exercise or races to get the juices flowing in mind and body and revitalise their enthusiasm.

 

#6. Contests and competitions

Adults are very competitive especially when workshops are being run internally where people know each other, even if only by reputation. Being able to beat the boss, or lead a team make the learning even more enjoyable. The contests could be as simple as the exercises mentioned above, or a full blown case study to be completed during the workshop. And don’t forget the prizes; however small, people love surprises and adults in particular appreciate them, as they are a rare occasion as we grow older.

Following these six tips for improving your own training sessions should help you achieve even greater success and perhaps more importantly lead to increased enjoyment for both you and the participants.

Do you have a question or challenge about training? I am sure I can help; just contact me here and I’ll respond personally.

Have I forgotten something? What other ideas do you have for making adult learning more enjoyable? I would love to hear about your own tricks and tips for improving the learning experience for us all.

 

For more on knowledge-sharing processes, check out our website:  https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

Top 3 reasons why CRM fails to earn my loyalty ( and Social CRM won’t, either)

At a recent conference I had an interesting discussion with an executive for a large non-profit organization, originally hired to lead the organization’s “CRM” activities.

Shortly after starting, she changed her job title to include “customer experience.”

Why? Because with a “CRM” title, her boss expected that one of the first things to be decided was which CRM system to implement.

The “customer experience” angle allowed her to focus the organization on learning how constituents perceived their experiences—like giving donations, interacting with people, and web visits too.

That took a year.

Now they’re driving systems changes with an outside-in approach. Start with what the experience should look/feel like, then figure out what systems and data are required to deliver experiences that will make constituents happy and loyal.

Now, some may say this is what CRM is, or what CRM was supposed to be. Fine, then why did this leader feel compelled to change her title, if “CRM” meant focus on customer experience/loyalty?

 

Treat me as a person!

Which brings me to the point of this post: Why does CRM fail to drive loyalty? Speaking as a customer, I believe it comes down to three reasons.

  1. I am not a “lead,” I’m a person There are tons of marketing automation systems designed to separate the wheat (qualified leads) from the chaff (time wasters). While it’s true that marketing organizations need such systems, they are not designed to provide a loyalty-building experience. Especially if you don’t end up as a prospect worth “nurturing.”
  2. I am not a “deal,” I’m a person Once a “lead” is passed to a sales automation system (SFA), the job is to manage these opportunities to close as many as possible. I can see why reps need (or at least tolerate) such systems, but it doesn’t do anything for me. You see, I’m only concerned about whether my needs are met, not whether I’m a good “deal” for the rep. Sadly, Sales 2.0 hasn’t changed this internal orientation.
  3. I am not an “incident,” I’m a person When something doesn’t work, getting it fixed quickly is of course important. Service/support systems can certainly help. But I don’t want to feel like I’m just another number in the system. A little empathy and personal caring goes a long way. Putting agents on Twitter won’t make them more social.

 

Will “Social CRM” be any different?

Years ago we did an ROI study on CRM projects and concluded that about two-thirds were “successful.” But successful at what?

Turns out that most managers bought the idea that CRM would increase loyalty (it was the No. 1 expected benefit). In practice, however, CRM delivered tactical benefits that were mainly valuable to the company: efficiency, cost reduction and improved decision-making. Few reported that CRM had anything to do with increasingly loyalty, and this I feel is one key reason for the dissatisfaction with CRM performance over the years.

Said another way, CRM has been mainly about systems, data, and how the company can extract value from customers. I think IBM gave one of the most straightforward definitions in a recent  Social CRM white paper:

“CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship.”

Social CRM proponents tout it as “CRM 2.0″—a strategic makeover that is all about customer collaboration and mutual value. My recent study found that expectations are sky high that Social CRM (broadly speaking, meaning the use of social business applications to support customers, partners and other external relationships) will improve the customer experience and increase loyalty.

Personally, I’m skeptical. Not because social technologies can’t help, but because business people are slow to change. It’s far too easy to apply new tools to old thinking.

Most of Altimeter’s  18 Use Cases of Social CRM are a social update to marketing, sales and service automation. Which is mainly intended to drive leads, manage deals, and h andle service incidents.

Which brings us full circle. If you treat your Social Customers like leads, deals or incidents, Social CRM won’t help build customer loyalty, either.

This post first appeared on CustomerThink on December 10, 2011

For more on customer connection check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

Knowledge Sharing and How to WOW!

Do you work in one of the many organisations that conduct market surveys, or in a department that provides information services internally, only to see your findings dismissed or even worse ignored? If so then maybe I can help you end this frustration.

Over my years working with companies in such diverse people-facing industries as Finance, CPG / FMCG, Leisure, Transport, Pharmaceuticals, Technology and Retail, I have noticed that they were all struggling with the one same area; that of turning information and knowledge, into underst anding and insight, and then actioning their discoveries. There were many reasons for this, sometimes even multiple reasons, but in the end I was able to help them to overcome this and to start taking the necessary actions that resulted in business growth. Let me explain how.

Insight development is often likened to an “Aha moment”; if insight is the Aha, then action has to be the WOW! And I know which most companies would rather have. Therefore I thought I would share with you the five ways I have found to be the most useful in wowing business to take the right action following a period of information and knowledge gathering:

#1. Simplification

One of the most common criticisms I hear of market research and insight people is that they remain in their own little worlds, almost preferring not to leave their offices and the safe haven of their computers, for the real world of business. As if this wasn’t bad enough, when they do “come out” they seem to prefer to speak in a language of statistics and psychology, appearing almost to like the fact that the rest of us don’t really underst and what they are saying.

Solution: If you want to share your findings and get management to back your recommendations, then you need to help them underst and what you are saying. Keep the presentations short, the slides if you are using them, to a minimum, and the “so what” rather than the “what” at the forefront of the presentation or discussion.

#2. Visualisation

Whether it is the 200 tables from a quantitative study, or the 200-word slides from a focus group, market research presentations can be deathly boring! It is said that a picture is worth a thous and words, and sometimes a million numbers! Use graphs and visualisation wherever you can, instead of words. However, this doesn’t mean graphing every number found and showing every cross-tab from every question asked. Visualisation can also mean showing pictures of users, the product or a diagram of how it is being used.

Solution: Infographics have become extremely popular in recent years for one very obvious reason; they make information interesting and attractive again. If you can’t develop an Infographic on the topic, at least ensure that your graphs replace and don’t duplicate your results and words. Use colour-coded dashboards to highlight trends and pictures wherever possible.

#3. Storytelling

History has relied on storytelling down through the ages for the transfer of information from one generation to the next. It is the most natural way for humans to share knowledge and ideas and technology has not replaced this, only enhanced it. However storytelling takes different skills than does analysis since it requires that the findings be shared in an appealing and attractive way. I am sure you agree with me that there are many great market research agencies, but not all of them are good at telling stories, but the best most definitely are.

Solution:  Knowledge that is shared as a story enables everyone in the company to underst and in the same way, the complexities of the customer, across businesses, departments and cultures. It is also a more engaging and memorable way to do so, than simply sharing numbers and graphs alone. Some of the best publicly available examples that you can see are on TED, where speakers must present in under 20 minutes and in most cases, they get their message across in much less than this. How much time would we all save if we made this a rule for all presentations? If nothing else, keeping things short brings more focus and a greater need for a clear story in the time allowed.

#4. Analysis Paralysis

When I was first starting in my career, being precise and correct was what I strived for, and luckily for me, it came naturally since I was born in the astrological sign of Virgo. However, over the years, I have learned that even when I was precise I wasn’t always right, so why get hung up on it? Today, I am just as comfortable working with gut-feelings and imprecision, as I am with precision and statistics. However, what is more important than anything, is to clearly lay out what has come out of all the analysis, data and knowledge; what it all means to the business and what actions must be taken.

Solution: This doesn’t mean I recommend you invent results, but I am suggesting that you don’t ignore findings because they are “only” 94% or 89% validated by statistical testing. If the result is substantiated throughout the analysis, then there is a pretty good chance it is right. Storytelling doesn’t come across too well if every sentence is qualified by a confidence interval or a comment about sample size.

#5. Watching and Listening

You are certainly going to tell it as it is – with the one reserve I just mentioned above – aren’t you? Well sometimes it is not enough. Even if you followed every interview and read every transcript, your audience most certainly hasn’t, so forgive them if they doubt what you are saying, especially if it goes against what they were originally thinking internally.

Solution: There needs to be more than just one person telling the story. I don’t mean to present in pairs, or worse, as the whole team that worked on the project (which I have actually once seen when the agency knew their results were not going to be popular!) but share what you have learned in a more interactive way. Which do you think is going to hit the message home more succinctly; reading “your product is too liquid” or seeing a consumer with the product falling off their fork, or between their fingers when trying to use it?

When possible, add some audio and video clips to a presentation. Not only do they bring your message to life, but they also add the reality of consumers’ lives to the business world – a life many of your audience will not in fact be living themselves.

If you use these five ways to improve your knowledge sharing, I am sure that you will find improved interest in and appeal of your presentations and discussions and a greater willingness to action your recommendations.

Do you have a question or challenge about knowledge sharing or improving your presentations? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

Do you have other ways for sharing your information and findings that get the reactions and actions you are looking for? I would love to hear about your own successes, just add them below.

Please share this post and retweet it to your colleagues who might find it useful or may have their own stories to share.

For more information on knowledge sharing, storytelling and presenting, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

Are your CMO and CIO “friends”?

Last year I read a report by Luca Paderni of Forrester about the importance of CMO’s and CIO’s working together to know and truly underst and the company’s customers. He mentioned that today’s marketing organizations must use technology to deliver compelling br and experiences and drive business growth, whilst today’s IT organizations must tune their efforts to the needs of the business.

This convergence of expertise dictates that to succeed, CMOs and CIOs must form a collaborative partnership focused on driving business results that support both long-term and short-term goals. CMOs and CIOs must embrace a shared view of the customer, as well as share business goals and metrics, in order to ensure competitive business success in the age of the empowered customer.

 

Companies need more insight not more information

This is a very interesting perspective which some organisations have already translated into the need for a CCO or Chief Customer Officer. Whilst not all companies will go this far, they will clearly all agree that they all need help in integrating and underst anding the wealth of data and information that they have available to them, in order to turn it into underst anding and insight.

As the famous quote from Rutherford D. Roger says 

We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge”

With the Internet and the availability of an ever-increasing amount of information, most companies desperately need help in making sense of it all and developing insights. And this flow will continue to grow raidly so technology will be, or rather already is the only way to manage its enormous size.

 

Marketing and IT need to collaborate

Marketing today can no longer rely on being purely the creative arm of the company, as more and more often, it is being challenged to demonstrate the ROI of its investements. As if this wasn’t tough enough, this is now also being asked in near real time, as has been the case in the past for other data such as production, sales and distribution.

A company’s IT department, which has until recently primarily supported the financial, production, supply chain or  related areas, will be required to develop and analyse large databases for marketing. It will now need to prepare and deliver summary data and dashboards on the complete state of the business, including such metrics as communications effectiveness or br and equity, in addition to the usual financial measures of sales, growth, share or marginal contribution. And all of this on a monthly, weekly or now more likely to be even a daily or hourly basis. In fact P&G recently installed screens in two meeting rooms showing exactly this information on a permanent basis, so decisions are not only quicker but also better informed, being based on actual market conditions.

Of course, without automation, this is nigh impossible, even for the smallest company to manage. This is why there are now many organisations that offer to help organisations make sense of their data, but truly sophisticated modelling and analysis, with a guaranteed positive business impact, is hard to find. As databases become ever-larger, and in addition must be integrated with numerous other information sources, these organisations will have to move to ever more sophisticated algorithms  incorporating multiple analytical methodologies.

Do you have a question or challenge about improving your customer centricity, or about integrating information or analysing BigData? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

How is your organisation facing this new challenge? Have you already made changes to organisational structure or responsibilities, or perhaps even both? Have your CMO and CIO become “friends”? What would you recommend to other companies who are just starting out on their own journey of change? We would love to hear your experiences. 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share with your colleagues and retweet. You can also find out more about putting the customer at the heart of business:  https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post was first published on C3Centricity Dimensions on September 22nd 2011

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

Are You Sure You Know Who You Really Are?

Earlier this week I was discussing with a client about Br and Image and Equity. “Oh we don’t need to worry about that!” he told me confidently. “We know exactly who we are and what we st and for; look, here is our br and framework” he continued, h anding me a very impressive sheaf of paper. 

Whilst I was certainly impressed with the organisation of the document and its contents, I had a niggling doubt in the back of my mind. “This all looks really complete” I responded, “Is this what you want the br and to st and for, or is this what its image is currently?” I asked. “That’s the same thing isn’t it?” he responded!

OK, OK, so you saw that coming didn’t you? But it still amazes me how many companies spend time developing these frameworks, including relevance and differentiation, br and promise, br and personality, etc. etc. but in fact have never measured whether or not their content is actually what they st and for in the hearts and minds of their customers! Therefore, I thought it would be useful to summarise what you need to know about your br and and not just what you have decided you want your br and to be.

 

1. Awareness

If people don’t know about your br and or service, then they can’t buy it, so you need to start by measuring how your awareness is moving. Hopefully it is growing, but you need to look at top-of-mind (first mention), spontaneous as well as prompted awareness, and amongst your target audience, not (just) a representative sample of category users, especially if yours is not a category that everyone buys.

Of course if you haven’t even identified to whom you are selling, then stop reading and go to the post on targeting that we published a while back; you can find it here. Awareness should be measured regularly, as it will be impacted by your marketing actions, promotions, communications, events etc.

2. Image

Once you know how many people have heard about what you are offering, you need to measure what they believe it is. Whilst you may have identified what you want your br and to be, this may not be the same as what your customers perceive it to be. They will have made up their own minds based upon what they see, what they experience and what they hear from friends, families or your own communications, as well as those of your competitors.

Whilst it is a good idea to measure the attributes with which you want to be associated, it is important to also measure some attributes you believe are particularly relevant for your major competitors, as well as those of the category itself. These latter metrics will help you identify the “price of entry” into the category and whilst not providing any competitive advantage, can seriously harm your br and if yours is weak on any of them.

Although image can fluctuate a little, in line with your marketing actions, your base image is slow to move, certainly slower than most marketers would like it to. Therefore, unless you are in an extremely active category, are being attacked by an agressive competitor who could weaken your image, or have made significant changes to your communications’ content or frequency, annual measurement is usually sufficient.

One other tip about br and image; changes to it are usually a pre-cursor of market share changes, so this is definitely an important KPI to keep updated.

3. Value

The measurement of your image should include perceptions of its value for money, especially compared to its major competitors. However, in addition, it is also useful to run a separate pricing study, especially if you are looking to raise or lower prices, as a result of changes in the competitive market or commodity prices.

In the past, the most common way of looking at the price of a product or service was to take its cost of production and then add on a percentage for margin. Today, it is essential that you start with your customers, underst and how well they value your offer and whether or not they are willing to pay more than the cost, in exchange for its perceived benefits. I am constantly amazed at how many companies still work with cost-based pricing strategies, leaving thous ands, if not millions on the table. However, since value can be impacted by so many external as well as internal factors, it needs to be regularly measured, certainly more often than image.

4. Personality

Every br and today is trying to build a relationship with its customers. In order to do this, it must ensure that its personality and character are in line with its target audience. This doesn’t mean that it should be the same; rather it should complement or complete that os its customer as this is what provides the reason to to buy. As with image, personality builds up slowly over time, through all the communications, events and promotions you propose. Therefore an annual measurement should be sufficient.

5. Satisfaction & Loyalty

I mentioned earlier that people won’t buy what you offer if they don’t know it and the same goes for its image, value and personality if they are not well perceived. The fifth metric to underst anding your br and is to review its overall satisfaction and loyalty levels. If these are lower than the category average or than you would like, then something in the mix is under-performing and you will need to identify what that is. Some categories with little differentiation may have lower levels than those with few br ands with larger differences, so no absolute number can be proposed here. However, comparing your levels to those of your major competitors, or to the category average should tell you what you need to know.

Which brings me to my final thoughts on image metrics; always make comparisons with your category and competitors rather than looking in isolation at your own numbers and their growth or decline. As with sales, it is share or their relation to others that holds the real truth.

Do you have a question or challenge about starting, updating or harmonizing your br and equity measurement and metrics? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

How do you follow what your br and st ands for? What metrics do you use to ensure you know how your br and is perceived by its current or potential customers? I would love to hear your own additions to this list.

For more ideas on br anding please see our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

 

Underst anding without Market Research

When companies want to know something about their market or customers, they usually first think about running a market research study.

Whilst it is true that market research can provide data and information, it is only when this is integrated with other knowledge, both internal and external, that deep underst anding and insight can be developed. 

 

Therefore, next time you need to know and underst and something, before dashing off to run another survey, stop and consider all the sources of information that you have readily available to you, and which are often also free of charge.

Many organisations already connect with their customers in many different ways and these can also be used to collect information and underst anding. However in order to make the most use of these contacts, there are three things you need to keep in mind.

 

The 3 essentials of connection:

#1. How:  There are numerous ways that you already connect with your customers if you think about it; these include CRM (customer relationship management), call centers, websites, demonstrations, sampling, promotions, events and sponsoring. Every contact you make with a customer can provide you with information to improve your underst anding of them. You can also use these connections to invite your customers to help in the development of new products, advertising, promotions or line extensions. For instance, you can ask their advice on your draft advertising, your ideas for improving your packaging designs or get their reactions to new product ideas before well before their completion.

Co-creation as it is sometimes called, also has the valuable advantage of valorising your customers’ opinions and will thus positively impact their image of you, their loyalty to your br and and their advocacy of your company within their social networks. They are also more likely to tell you the things that excite or annoy them much more readily than in a survey or group discussion. The Nespresso Club is a great example of this. Nespresso regularly asks its members to vote on new flavors they are thinking of launching and gives their customers a chance to preview new advertising on which they can react, long before it is aired in public. This makes their members feel special and provoledged, as well as important for the success of the company, which they take almost personally.

#2. Where: Another reason to resist the temptation to first run more market research when you need to know something, is that you may not be asking the real questions that matter or are of interest to your customers. Connecting with them as described above, will be on their terms, and thus will help you to identify the areas that concern, interest or excite them. This will then enable you to ask the right questions, should you still need to conduct a survey to quantify your findings.

A further advantage of using the connections you already make with your customers, is that it makes everyone in the company more sensitive to their needs on a regular basis, rather than just at times when market research surveys are run or presented. Ideally, everyone in the company should have objectives that include connecting with customers on a regular basis. They should also be encouraged to share what they have heard or seen with others, to stimulate everyone’s thinking about how to satisfy these needs and desires of the customer.

#3. When: Some of the connections mentioned above can also provide opportunities to ask questions as well or to provide information back to your customers, as long as they are willing to answer or listen. It is vital that you underst and your customer well enough, that you underst and when to just listen and observe and when you can ask questions or clarifications. In some cases, you may not be able to ask anything and you must accept this, as the connection should always be on the customer’s terms, not yours.  Treating each of your customers as an individual, can also produce positive buzz about your company or br and online; today’s world is socially networked so don’t forget that mistakes and lack of respect will no longer go unnoticed.

Deeply underst anding your customers takes a lot more than just carrying out market research. It takes true openness and transparency on behalf of the company and a real desire by all employees to get closer to their customers, to underst and them, both their rational desires and emotional needs. It is the only way to truly satisfy them in the long term.

Do you have a question or challenge about connecting with your customers? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

Do you have other ways you use to support your employees in getting closer to your customers? If so we would love to hear about them below.

Find out more about customer connection and underst anding:  https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post was first published on C3Centricity Comments page on September 15th 2011

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

Three Changes in Customer Care you need to Know

Businesses are beginning to realise that whether they like it or not, their customers are expecting to dialogue with them about their br ands and services, wherever and whenever they choose.

Whilst care centres managed the relationship with customers in the past and often at arm’s length from the business, today’s customers are dem anding more: more responses, more rapidly, more completely, on more channels. In answer to these dem ands, some companies have developed the position of community manager. Many more however, believe that they can continue business as usual, using their care centre personnel to respond to social media “when they are not on the phone”.

For this reason, I thought it would be useful to consider a number of points for those of you that have yet to decide how best to h andle the situation:

1. Talking vs. writing

Care centre staff are extremely good at listening and in many cases they respond by just reading predefined scripts. If they are challenged with a possible health or legal concern, they know to pass the call onto properly qualified experts who will then reply and talk to the caller directly.

In social media however, response is expected almost by return; according to Mari Smith, people expect it within the hour! In the case of sensitive issues, it would therefore be logical to reply immediately saying that an expert would respond in due time with a detailed answer to the customer’s comments. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to respond to customers, some companies end up replying inappropriately.

Whilst this was not usually an issue in call centres, since generally only the company was recording the call, responding over the net means that the reply is available for all to see, even when deleted from the site on which the conversation had originally taken place, as Nestlé learned only too well in early 2010. (See here for more on that story)

The people you hire to answer social platform questions and comments need flexibility to respond as a human being, not a scripted employee, but more importantly also detailed training on how to respond. These responses could directly impact company image and reputation, and so should not be treated lightly.

2. Pack invitations

A few years ago, many global companies looked for ways to save money in production costs and the multi-country packs became the norm. This meant that the instructions, ingredients etc. that were detailed on the pack needed to be shown in multiple languages.

The font sizes used were necessarily much smaller and the text became almost illegible. Many organisations then solved this problem by adding pictures to explain how the product was to be used or cooked, which was fine. However, for contact details this was not possible, so businesses had to choose between providing all contact options – telephone, website, email, mail – making the font extremely small, or at best a compromise between the two. Some even removed the contact information altogether, which I would definitely not recommend.

If  – or should I say because? – you want to connect with your customers, then you need to make it easy for them. If you can’t place all contact options on pack, then at least provide a 1-800 number and website address in a clearly visible way.

3. Double opt-in no longer enough!

If the European Commission has its way, double opt-in, which means asking consumers if they want to be contacted and then checking again that they, themselves had indeed asked to be put on a br and or company list, will no longer be sufficient.

In this week’s Marketing Week, it was suggested that The European Commission was about to propose that companies would have to tell consumers “clearly, underst andably and transparently” how their data would be processed and used by them. There is still a lot of trust in the web, especially amongst younger users, perhaps frighteningly so to some of my own “older” generation. However, this does suggest that companies will have to have a clear plan on what they will do with the information they gather.

Now this is not such a bad idea in itself, since I know many organisations that gather Gigabytes of data and do nothing with it for a long time, and then complain it is invalid or out-of-date when they get around to trying to use it. By the sound of it the days of this freedom are soon over.

Therefore, since changes will surely come, and sooner rather than later, to protect customers from online abuse of their information, why not start to really plan what data you need, and why and how you are going to use it? In this way customers will remain open to providing it and we all benefit, since they will be getting appropriately targeted information. Reviewing these changes in customer care practices it is clear that adaptation of most current processes is badly needed and yet so many companies are still slow to see the need to do this. As I said, things are about to change, whether you like it or not!

Do you have a question or challenge about improving the processes of your care centers? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

What changes are you planning in your connections with your customers? Please share your ideas here.

For more information on connecting to your customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

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