Monday, October 24, 2011

How important is what your customer experiences with your product?

¡La experiencia de producto es la clave!
Whether you've designed a great strategy, with a creative out of this world and have invested a lot of money on advertising, still there is something that isn’t in your control. You know what it is?

The answer: What your customer experiences with your product.

And what do we mean by that? Well, it’s about everything that happens after your customer has said yes, bought your product (whatever it is, even if we are talking about your own services) and has already used it.

This is the starting point for everything. From this moment on, your customer will have the opportunity to confirm whether:
  • The promises you made while insisting on selling your product, were all true.
  • What he heard or read about your product, was true.
  • Those comments he read on your “Wall" on Facebook widely recommending your product, were true. 
And for sure there will be many other things your clients will be confirming that didn’t come to my mind, but I’m sure you already have the idea. Imagine that between you and your client there’s a line separating both. While the customer is at your shop, buying, he’s on your side of the line. When the product is sold and your customer is at home, he’s on the other side of the line. As much as you’d like to influence him after he crosses to the other side of the line, you can’t, or at least, not on the same way.

The same applies to your marketing efforts: it doesn’t matter how eager you’re to approach your customer and make sure his experience with the product is great, you just can’t. The closest you can get is to stay by his side to be sure that if any problem, question, inconvenience that should come up, is properly resolved, so that your client enjoys a satisfactory customer experience. And yet the experience as such, belongs to your customers. They live it, feel it, it's unique, personal and strongly subjective.

You're probably saying "Well, Joel, that's nice! What do you mean then? that there is nothing I can do to make this experience a positive one? "

No, of course that’s not what I mean. What I want you to know is that there’re so many things you can do to "ensure" the best you can, that your customer’s experience with the product is a positive one. You can start by making sure that:
  • Your product does what you said it would, that is, always sell the truth.
  • Only promise what you’re sure you can deliver and don’t ever "oversell" anything.
  • There are immediate venues for your customer to contact you if he was to have any kind of problem or concern. 
The customer has immediate, fast and simple access to product guides, FAQ, demos, and any available tool that can assist him on having a positive experience with the product.

And above everything, make sure to personally be there if your client needs help. Not only if he actually is to have a problem but also if he wants to show you his gratitude and satisfaction if he fells completely and totally pleased with your products and services.

We all know that things may not go as expected, that's normal. However, receiving prompt assistance, quickly and helpfully, can appease any inconvenience and turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

And I’m sharing this with you because I recently had such an experience with the company I bought an application from I needed for my Facebook page. Like any new thing, at first I took a couple of quibbles trying to handle it, however, their customer service has been so helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly to me that those glitches appear not to have existed at all and I wouldn’t hesitate to refer them with you, if you were to need their product.

That’s the kind of product experience you should make sure your customers have. Don’t you think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Relationship value: What can you expect from social media?

What can you expect from social media?
By this point in time, you’re probable completely sold on the reasons why you’ve got to be in social media, why you’ve got to develop any sort of social presence for your business or product so that, at least, you get to be on the same level as your competitors are. That we know.

“If you aren’t visible, you don’t exist”, many people would tell you, and even though I don’t like to go so radical, I do have to admit it the same way. Maybe it isn’t that you don’t exist, but for sure you are missing out on big opportunities.

But let’s see, what can you really expect from social media? What’s in it for you? Which are those “benefits” that your company might have access to by having a Facebook page or even a Twitter account?

If you want it really, really simple, with minimum wording: closely relate with your customers, as you never did before.

Do social media allow you to listen to what your customers are saying about your brand? Yes, they do. Do they allow you to set up “viral” promotional campaigns? Again, they do. Do they serve as a complement to your offline marketing efforts? Obviously they do.

However, if you look at those little three questions, all have one thing in common: behind them, there is a client with whom you're getting connected!

It’s in this relationship with your customer where the "gold mine" exists for social networks. It’s this relationship the point from which a rich and natural interaction between your brand and its customers can be born, in which relevant content is shared for both parties, from which you can get to know your customers so closely as to even invite them even to participate in the development of your products, as Dell Computers is doing with their customers.

If you’ve previously made marketing plans, you’ve probably been used to working only from one side, unilaterally. The only way to measure whether your efforts were effective, was by the corresponding sales growth. No increase in sales, no effectiveness. If you wanted to know how to better refine your strategies, you had to rely on market research. If you didn’t have the budget for it, then you guided yourself with your "crystal ball" ... unfortunately in many cases (and fortunately in others) it was the way to go.

Today you’ve to face a completely different reality. Your client doesn’t disappear after leaving the store with the shopping bag and next time you get to see him is when he comes to buy again. Most of the times, your client has a digital life: an email account, a social profile (be it Facebook, Linkedin or whatever), jumps to the Internet to find information about their hobbies and a lot of things.

And it’s on those sites where you can meet him again. A possibility that was not there before!

That is why, in my personal opinion, the most important thing you can expect from social media, is to take advantage of this valuable opportunity to interact with your client. Talk to him (or her, of course) ask why they like your product, how they use it, ask about their hobbies, favorite sports, his favorite reading, and so on.

Who says you can’t find great opportunities to expand your business, getting connected this way with your clients? For example, let’s say you sell bags for athletes and it turns out, talking to your customers, that for 95% of them, volleyball is their favorite sport. Wouldn’t it be an important marketing opportunity for your business to sponsor your city’s volleyball team, for instance?

There you have the most valuable benefit you can expect from your social media presence: Relating with your customers this way: closely, effectively, and proactively. And above all, the benefits are for both, not only for you.

What do you expect from your social media presence? Do you perceive it more as an additional sales channel, or it’s a valuable item for you?

Related post: ROI on social media: When 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vision and planning - ¿Are you adapting to the changes?

Are you adapting to the changes?
A few days ago I was chatting with a small business owner in the town I live, about things, the world, people, about business and, as it’s normal for the time being, we ended up talking about the economic crisis. But not the crisis per se but the fact that everybody talks about it. Funny, it’s not it?

Trying to move away from the subject and turn it into a positive conversation (I always try to look at things from a positive side) and noticing he was talking about how slow business was, how people were buying very little from him, the need for a change, I started recommending a few things he could do, contacting his clients by email with special offers, doing some in store promotions, offering discounts in slow selling products, bottom line, a started offering him options.

To my surprise, from that moment on, reasons on why there is nothing that can be done started pouring at me, that the business across the street was being given more facilities than his, that our town is very little and needs to have double the population it now has, that people don’t have money to spend, that we have to wait for the crisis to be over. In one word: excuses!

But one phrase totally caught my attention: “We have to wait for the crisis to be over.”

Needless to say we all know the world’s economy is going through a very difficult time, that there are thousands of jobless people, that our surrounding is not particularly promising, at least in the short term and many other things. We all know about that and if you don’t, just turn on the TV and you will get to know right away. But still, “we have to wait for the crisis to be over”.

And it’s here where I want to make a stop with you: “We have to way for the crisis to be over”. I couldn’t get rid of that phrase. Let’s say, for instance, we are told that, for sure, 100% guaranteed the crisis will be over on March 15, 2012. What should we do? Well, apparently the obvious thing to do would be to wait until that day comes for us to start doing things. In other words, it would be starting from that day on that we can start planning things to do, our future marketing actions, strategies, the changes that would need to be made in order to move forward, everything… but starting that day, neither sooner or later.

But what do we do until that day comes? Well, wait and hold. Close your eyes and, in your mind, watch “the rain run on the roof”. The strongest will make it and the weakest, well, won’t.

But if we take a different approach to it, and know the crisis will be over on March 15, 2012, wouldn’t these days be the best to start planning things? Gathering information about things that we will be able to do then? To recharge our batteries, knowing the crisis is finally going to be over on a magic snap, and cheer up? Wouldn’t it be the logical thing to do?

But, have you asked yourself what would you do if the crisis is over, let’s say, tomorrow? Or next week? What if it ends ten years from now? What if it ended one week ago and you didn’t notice? What would you do then?

In my heart, I believe that we all have to finally adapt to the surroundings in which we’re living, recognize the situation is what it is, and that’s that. Whether the crisis is over or not, is not in your hands, neither on mine.

As a business owner and an individual, you’ve got to convince yourself that the only thing in your hands to do to make “the crisis be over”, is to move forward, put all your energy every single day into finding more opportunities for your business, be creative, proactive, and not to let yourself be appalled by the negativism that shows up in thousands of excuses to make you stay arms crossed and do nothing.

You’ve got to keep your eyes wide open, maintain your short and long term business vision, plan and execute the things you can do right now, and in the next few days, and plan for those you will be able to do later on when things get better. The show must go on, and so must you.

Even on these hard economic times, there’re businesses growing, moving on, step by step. Is yours one of those? Or is it one of those that are being appalled by the crisis and negativism that has come with it? What are you going to do if finally find out the crisis was over last week but you weren’t told?

Related post: Did you put all you eggs in only one nest?

Friday, October 7, 2011

David & Goliath: A small coffee shop teaches the big corporation a lesson.

A coffee shop: Business model to follow?
Could a small coffee shop show you the business model you should follow to develop your own company, grow it and maintain loyalty-based relationships with your customers?, could this little coffee shop be a model for you to follow and promote your products and services?

I’d like to share with an experience me and some coworkers recently had. We do gather every day for early morning breakfast at the same place, around the same time, as usual. I order half “serrano” ham and cheese toast, and peach juice for me.

Sometimes I am for a different taste and choose apple juice instead, or change “serrano” ham for “York”, nothing out of this world. Since I already know how much I pay every time I have breakfast there, I don’t even bother to ask. I pay the attendant and wait for the change. Since we have a nice relationship and see each other every single day, I suppose the change she gives me back is correct and don’t even check it before putting it on directly on my pocket.

One day, Carola, the attendant comes to me and asks: “Joel, how do you want me to fix your everyday order today? “. It was really funny and, at the same time, truly instructive. Not only she knew what I ordered every single day but also the fact that within the last few days I have been changing my mind asking like “Bring me the usual but with York and fresh cheese” for instance.

And I have to say instructive, because for me as the customer, it made me feel really well attended and showed me that such feeling I don’t have when doing business with most of the bigger corporations. And it’s a feeling I share with my coworkers every day we gather there for breakfast. It meant for me a smashing proof on how the relationship with a customer must be based on mutual interest, benefit and trust. But let’s not to stop there, because it get’s better.

During summer break, our coffee shop what closed for the holidays, as usual, and those who used to get together there needed to “relocate” to a nearby place for breakfast. It was impressive to feel during those day we had to go to “the competitor” how “we were missing” the service quality and personal attention we used to be offered on our every-day coffee shop.

Caution: I’m not exaggerating. The feeling was “I miss you”, neither more nor less. We asked ourselves when were they going to be open again, when were they coming back from their holidays, we even came to complain about having to go to the other place for breakfast!

When they came back after vacation, we gathered there again, in our respective seats, waiting for them to take care of us as usual, to remember what we used to order regularly.

Isn’t this the kind of relationship you, as a business owner, wants to develop with your customers? Having your customers missing your services when they aren’t readily available, having your customer wishing to go back and shop at your place or store, because he feels so spoiled that he doesn’t even worry about your prices being higher than your competitor’s. Wouldn’t this be a very valuable element within your marketing strategy? Isn’t it what you would like to achieve with your newest campaigns, even more with the environment being what it is?

Nowadays we can check how big and small companies are investing huge amounts of money in developing strategies and actions to develop with their customers business relationships with the same characteristics: long lasting, based on mutual loyalty and confidence.

It’s here where big corporations need to learn from small businesses, from the store around the corner, the little coffee shop in which the owner knows exactly what every customer orders, or the hair saloon in which the stylist knows your wife likes her hair a bit shorter here, longer there and not so dark on the tips.

This is the kind of relationship you should try to develop with your customers, with your integrated marketing plan, not only on social media, but in all your promotional efforts. The relationship in which your customers become the center of your attention, of your efforts, and his satisfaction is the goal to achieve.

Is this the way you are focusing your marketing efforts? Is the “coffee shop model” one that could serve you to change directions and develop more profit for your business? What do you think?

Related post: Already bought your product, now what?