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Excellence in Marketing and Customer Experience

29 Nov

customerservice

I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and saw something on my hotel receipt that got me thinking about the true definition of excellence in marketing and customer service.

The bottom of the receipt simply asked, “How was your stay?” It continued with, “If you cannot rate your visit as excellent, please let us know.” A generic customer service email followed, along with the general manager’s name.

I thought about my stay. It was fine. The hotel met expectations with a clean room, an okay view, decent restaurant and lounge, and respectable meeting rooms. But it wasn’t excellent—it was fine.

Webster’s says excellence is a talent or quality that’s unusually good and surpasses ordinary standards. Other sources define it as superior, remarkably good or possessing outstanding quality.

To me, excellence is something special. It’s when you exceed my expectations by a significant amount. It’s when a product, service or customer experience is good enough for me to talk about with my friends, family and colleagues.

I wondered what it would’ve taken for me to rate my hotel stay as excellent. What could they have done to elevate my experience from fine to excellent? How could they have exceeded my expectations to ensure I told my friends so they stayed there, too, on their next trip to San Francisco?

Then, I turned the table and asked myself the same: What could ER and the building materials industry do to ensure an excellent customer experience? Would we have the guts to ask that question on every invoice or receipt? Are we brave enough to ask that question at every customer touchpoint?

My sense is if we received a negative response from a customer, most of us would take steps to fix the problem right away. But I wonder how many of us would act with the same urgency if a customer said their experience doing business with us was just “fine.”

“Fine” is a C grade on a college term paper. “Fine” doesn’t get people talking about our business. “Fine” is quickly forgotten.

Are you brave enough to ask customers at each touchpoint about their experience? Will you act with urgency if feedback reveals you’re perceived as ordinary? And, most importantly, how can you elevate your customer experience from one that’s fine to one that’s excellent and gets people talking about your business?

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Live From New York: Marketing Takeaways

15 Nov

Audiences Crave Experiences, Not Just Data

tonightshow720

On a recent NYC trip, I found myself with a few free hours and couldn’t pass the chance to see the “Saturday Night Live” and “Tonight Show” studios and sound stages. I took a behind-the-scenes tour of NBC Studios for a glimpse of how sets are made, talent hits their marks, copy is written, local feeds come in, and lighting is set up.

But the most impactful part of the tour? That was at the end. We had the chance to be the host of our very own late night show. An announcer chosen, as well as a band, camera operators and the control room team.

Not your typical tourist attraction, right?

The segment was shot and within 10 minutes, all participants had an email with a link to their video segment.

The editing was complete, the laugh tracks in place, credits added, the opening and closing graphics inserted. A complete piece with you as the star – all in just ten short minutes.

Soon after, the NBC pages who were our guides asked tour participants to take a two-minute survey. They wanted our feedback on the tour and insight on how the experience may be improved. The process was immediate and easy so nearly everyone agreed to participate.

The tour wrapped in the gift shop where we were handed a small flyer inviting us to connect with NBC Studios on social media. More importantly, we had immediate access to their social channels so we could quickly and easily share with followers our adventures as a late night host.

I left the studio tour with three takeaways product marketers can apply.

  1. Provide experiences – not just facts. Give your audience an experience so the learning is immersive. As building product marketers, how can we make events more interactive? How can we insert trade show experiences that let audiences be part of the event rather than simply observers? NBC could have handed us a fact sheet full of data. Instead, we were able to experience what it’s really like to produce a show.
  1. The need for speed is real. Receiving the edited video of our late night hosting experience in 10 short minutes sealed the deal for me. And, within 30 minutes of leaving 30 Rock, I’d shared that link with my social channels and raved about the tour. I amplified the experience to my followers and it didn’t cost NBC a dime.
  1. Strike while the audience is hot. Asking for immediate feedback rather than days or weeks later, elicited a totally different response than had my excitement or memory of the event faded.

Chances are, creating an experience for your audience doesn’t require a sound stage, lighting or camera operators. So ignore the urge to create one more piece of collateral jam-packed with data.

Instead, invite your audience to participate in an immersive experience that exceeds their expectations, makes them eager to offer immediate feedback and willing to share with friends and followers.

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Trust but Verify

25 Oct

Questions about the Facts

Several weeks ago, a train in Hoboken, NJ crashed and quickly made national news.

The first alert I received from CNBC said, “Major train accident causes ‘mass casualties’ in Hoboken, NJ: WNBC.”

Just 25 minutes later, I received a second CNBC alert. This one read: “1 dead, more than 100 people injured in Hoboken train accident: WNBC, citing source.”

CNBC is a reputable news organization, especially among financial audiences and business leaders. I’d wager their writers are journalists with ample experience.

Tragically, one person did die in the Hoboken crash. But the first email from CNBC was based on information from WNBC that at first glance, appears to have been incorrect.

President Ronald Reagan used a Russian proverb when interacting with the country’s officials, “Trust but verify.” Meaning, I’m going to accept what you say at face value but I’m also going to confirm the accuracy with another source.

WNBC, and ultimately CNBC, likely reported exactly what a transit official shared in what had to have been a chaotic environment. But our digital 24-hour news cycle puts a premium on speed – often at the expense of quality.

After all, if CNBC was a print outlet, this error would have been less likely. CNBC would have had time to verify that one person – not many – had lost their life.

There were nearly 212,500 students enrolled in college journalism programs in 2012.

There were 305 million blog accounts on Tumblr in July 2016, up from 17.5 million in 2011. That’s just Tumblr – not WordPress or other platforms.

Why does that matter?

Trained journalists of today and tomorrow have to meet specific standards. Stories are edited and fact checked. And, the threat of getting news wrong haunts most reporters – even if it’s just misspelling a name.

On the flipside, bloggers may or may not be officially trained. Objectivity and accuracy isn’t mandated like it is for reporters at credible news organizations.

That doesn’t mean bloggers aren’t good writers. It also doesn’t mean that bloggers are okay being loose with facts. I assume most want to do good work.

But it does mean that anyone can call themselves a blogger. And, not everyone can claim to be a trained journalist.

Bloggers aren’t held to the same journalistic standards. And, they don’t have the same repercussions as traditional reporters for inaccurate reporting.

As we enter the final weeks of a presidential election fueled by hysteria, hyperbole and even panic, it only seems appropriate to reference the Gipper’s line.

Consider the source. Consider the outlet. Don’t just accept what you read online and regurgitate it as truth.

Trust but verify. Before you share, like, retweet – or repeat.

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Measure Value, Not Activity

30 Aug

Are You Measuring the Right Results?
Business People Meeting Growth Success Target Economic Concept

Open rates, click through rates (CTRs), and conversions are just a few of the metrics most B2B marketers tend to use when determining the results of their work. But are those really the best metrics for determining success?

According to new data from Forrester, not necessarily. More and more B2B marketers are now struggling to tie these results to revenue. The truth is that while the metrics described above do a good job in a vacuum of helping marketers determine whether their marketing is working, they don’t necessarily shed light on whether or not the marketing efforts are generating real dollars for the business as a whole.

Increasingly, it’s not just CMOs who are looking at marketing results, it’s the CEOs. They want to see a direct correlation between marketing spend and sales generation. If the numbers don’t work out, then the marketing department or creative agency might not work out either.

Despite the demand for revenue-based results looming above them, B2B marketers are still struggling to deliver these types of results. So what is complicating their efforts? According to the article, there are several main challenges:

  •  Internal data is difficult to collect, connect, and analyze given the silos that exist in many workplaces.
  • Too much data! Marketers have access to more than ever before, and sometimes it is difficult to cut through the clutter.
  • Marketers aren’t always “numbers people.” Think of the best ones you know—they’re usually creative types who may not have developed the analytical skills necessary to excel—no pun intended.
    Marketing is a subjective field, but by looking at the right numbers and presenting them to the right people, B2B marketers can convert numbers into usable information that can drive real results for the business. (For some fabulous tips about presenting results to others, read this blog by an account service professional at ER Marketing, Matt Bartlett.)

Testing subject lines and measuring open rates and CTRs is great, but only insofar as it improves your approach to your marketing goals. If it helps you fine tune your approach, all the better. To prove your worth as a B2B marketer, you need to start measuring the value of what you do, not just the activity.

To read the full article about the Forrester findings, click here.

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The Housing Economy Experiences Gradual Growth

2 Aug

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Study Releases Important Data

Human hand add a  coin in the final row

With numerous housing reports coming out each month, many have debated what these new economic performance measurements will mean for the future of housing rates and for the building industry. According to Harvard’s The State of the Nation’s Housing 2016 report, new home sales are strengthening with a 6.39% increase to 5.3 million. Although these numbers may indicate that the housing economy is not back to where it once was, it does show that there is substantial improvement from recent years.

Major report findings:

  • Multifamily starts rose 11.8% to 397,300, the highest in 27 years. Single-family starts were also up, rising 10.5% to 715,000.
  • Sales of both new and existing homes are up. The existing homes inventory remains tight with a supply of 4.8 months.
  • The inventories of for-sale homes in the low and middle price tiers dropped 9% between 2014 and 2015, contributing to a total decline of 38% between 2010 and 2015.
  • The median price of existing homes rose 6.6% to $222,400. Rising home prices have contributed to a reduction in the number of homeowners with negative equity.

However, other issues have risen, specifically the cost burden for renters. According to the report, 36.4% of households in 2015 opted to rent, which is the highest numbers seen since the late 1960s. This stems from low-income rates, as well as millennials who still are deeply in debt with school. Many millennials say that they envision themselves purchasing a home of their own one day, but due to financial troubles do not see themselves buying a home in the near future.

The report also shows that US housing starts have risen more than excepted in June due to construction activity. Despite the rise in housing starts, data points show that there will be a leaner second quarter, especially with it being an election year. While we are still far away from a boom period in housing, the latest housing starts from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Study shows that we are on a gradual recovery path.

Key Takeaways:

  • Americans remain optimistic toward homeownership
  • Household growth is on the rise
  • Rental housing remains in high demand
  • New construction of single-family homes is on the rise

While the numbers show a gradual recovery, there’s still a lot of situations in which the housing economy may not reach the housing peak that it once was. Although, with those numbers being as unstable as they were, it’s possible that they may not be such a bad thing.

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