Sending the Wrong Email can be an Opportunity to do the Right Thing

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We all get them every day. Emails that we delete without reading. Yet companies invest countless hours in developing email campaigns and messaging to try and catch our attention or interest just for us to ignore them. My wife and I were discussing recently the top email subject headers that means we will automatically delete a marketing email.

My wife’s top flag was anything that gave her an order to do something. Yesterday’s winner in that category was an email she received from a company that shouted “This is important information you need – Don’t Delete!” – The first thing she did? Deleted that email.

My pet peeve is over friendly emails from people I’ve never met, like this example from yesterday, “Reminder – Hey Alan, did you have a chance to review my email?” My response, check the company on the email address, not someone I do business with, then hit the Delete button.

Then there’s the emails from companies that you do interact with on a regular basis, but when you read it you think “How did I end up on that mailing list?” You delete it and don’t give it much thought beyond it ramping up an annoyance factor with the company that can eventually impact your overall customer experience.

But great brands and customer-aware companies can use a well-defined customer communications management strategy to turn that “How did I end up on this list?” moment into a positive experience rather than a negative one.

A case in point. Our car.

Although my family changes cars on a pretty regular basis we are pretty brand loyal. At any given time you can bet that someone in the family is driving an example from this particular brand’s line up. At the moment it’s my wife. It’s the eleventh example of the brand we’ve owned.

So imagine my surprise to receive an email from the company that was headed “We’re sorry to see you go.” It continued along the lines that the company had heard we had sold the car and wanted to ask a few questions of our experience with the brand, and why we’d moved on. Looking out the window I could still see the car sitting on the driveway. Yep, definitely on the wrong mailing list. I deleted the note, and didn’t think any more of it.

Until two days later.

A follow-up email arrived from the car company apologizing for the wrong email being sent. There was a well- worded message along the lines of “we know that you still own your car, and thanks for being a loyal customer.” This was followed with a note that by way of apology a small gift was in the mail (which arrived the next day).

There was also an additional follow-up that laid out our ownership of the current car, and a note that as a token of thanks for our loyalty if we headed to our local dealer within the next thirty days they would upgrade us from our current model to the equivalent latest model at a stated lower APR rate.

One mistake = good follow up + bonus gift + acknowledgement of my customer loyalty + upsell offer.

That’s good customer communications management, it helps strengthen relationships, develops good customer experience, and promotes more value and revenue across the customer lifecycle.

While we’re not ready to take up that trade-in offer just yet, but when it does come time to change the car again, guess which company will once again be top of our list?

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You Are Now A Media Company (If you’re not – you should be!)

I love podcasts. In fact I’d say I’m something of a podcast junkie. Each time I get in the car I listen to one, be it on my commute to the office, or a business trip. I listen to them on plane rides. And when I go for my evening walks in the park. Podcasts are easily the most updated audio app on my phone, as I download several new episodes of my favorite ones. As I write this I have twenty-two different podcast channels lined up each with new content waiting for me to listen to on a variety of subjects such as history, motor sports, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, movie reviews, creative writing, industry news, and Content Marketing.

My two favorite Content Marketing podcasts both come from my friends at the Content Marketing Institute; “Content Inc”. from Joe Pulizzi gives short (about 5 minutes) tips and ideas – just enough to spark some thought for the day; while “PNR: This Old Marketing” is a weekly hour long discussion between Joe and his CMI cohort, Robert Rose on the latest trends in Content Marketing. Both are highly recommended.

The fine folks at CMI also popped up on my Amazon Prime streaming feed at home with their just release documentary “The Story of Content.” The latest issue of their magazine CCO sits on my desk, and I follow CMI on Twitter each day. – In fact I’m something of a CMI brand advocate. They are one of the best models of how to build a business through content.

What makes CMI stand out is that while they are selling consulting, training, and events they don’t act like a traditional consulting house, instead they act like a media company. They use content to position themselves as industry thought leaders, and they tailor that content to the different channels they use to engage with their audience. (Note I said audience, not customers.)

For many years I’ve being delivering the message that all companies should think and act like publishers. Well that is no longer enough – You need to act like a media company.

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It isn’t enough to continue to just produce print-based collateral such as brochures and press releases and try and slice it and dice it to fit onto different digital platforms.

So how do you approach being a media company?

Take a look at this business plan by arguably the most successful media company on the planet.

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This was Disney in 1957 – almost 60 years ago – yet every channel was designed to use content to build the business.

Think about the following and apply it to your business.

  1. What’s the core activity that you want to build an audience for?
  2. What channels can drive that engagement?
  3. What value can each channel add?
  4. Who is the audience for that channel?
  5. What content type works best on that channel?
  6. How can we create the right content for that channel with connections that engages the audience enough to be drawn back to the core activity?
  7. How do we connect that content to present an overall brand experience and consistent story no matter which channel the audience engages with first?

Collaboration is the Pits – And it can drive success.

“Hot Pit Pass” – Those words on the ticket hanging around my neck on a fancy lanyard were magic to me. The coveted prize of any motor-racing fan, to be granted access to epicenter of the action in any major motor-race. A few years ago my wife and I had been lucky enough to be invited to attend the Texas NASCAR race as a guest of Richard Childress Racing, and part of the package was a guided tour of their pit operations and the coveted pass that allowed us to stay in the pit and garage area the whole race. NASCAR is un-matched in the access it gives fans and visitors, and with that magic piece of paper we got to wander anywhere; including sitting on the pit wall watching the cars come in and being serviced.

It was a magic moment witnessing the well-rehearsed choreography of a top-flight pit crew. Six men flowed over the wall to service the car, filling it with fuel and changing four wheels and tires in less than 15 seconds. (In Formula One where the pit crew can number as high as fourteen people each with a dedicated task they can accomplish a four wheel and tire change in less than three seconds!)

A good pit-stop can mean the difference between success and failure in a race; and a good pit crew can be just as effective as the driver when it comes to positioning a car to win. Despite there only being one person on track, motor racing is definitely a team sport. This was bought home to me again recently during a business trip while watching the 2015 NASCAR race from Atlanta on the hotel room TV. Not surprisingly I’ve stayed a fan of the RCR teams and always follow them closely, and the Caterpillar sponsored #31 team in particular. During the Atlanta race the #31 pit crew were exceptional, as it soon became apparent that with every single pit stop the car emerged from the pits several positions ahead of where it had entered. In some cases the fast efficient work of the team gaining four or five places.

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It also struck me that the pit-crew model is a perfect analogy for the content creation and delivery process.

Customers are looking to your content to provide answers to questions, and as the content creator you may feel like the lone driver out on track fighting for space and hoping to get out front and be noticed first.

But the truth is that most customer answers need input and information from across your organization. Customers don’t think in terms of your operational silos, so they don’t look for information in neatly packaged chunks. To meet your customer’s needs you need to collaborate with subject matter experts, do research, and them pull it all together in a language that your customer will understand.

You need to pull together your own “pit crew” around a particular subject, value their individual inputs and pull them together to develop a process, to deliver the result that will help you, and your customer move forward at an accelerated pace.

Collaboration of this type also results in a premium consistent brand experience; ensuring that your customer gets the same answer, the same information, no matter through which channel they ask their question.

Working together results in success for both you and your customers.

Be Arnold – Not Mary-Kate

“Why be Mary-Kate and Ashley when we can be the Arnold to the rest of the industry’s Danny DeVito?”

It may sound like a strange conversation, but it’s one I’ve had several times at different points in my career; usually when I’ve been at a small to medium sized, or spin-off start-up, software company. The underlying conundrum behind the question was “How do we differentiate ourselves?”

Nearly every business, to a greater or lesser extent, is akin to a commodity driven business these days. There are very few disruptive companies whose success is solely due to the fact that they are the only one doing something. Everybody has a competitor, or two, or lots; all doing essentially the same thing you are, especially when you are playing in a global marketplace.

If someone tells you what line of business they are in, and you answer “Me too,” then you are now a commodity. If you don’t differentiate yourself trough the unique value you bring to you customers you become an Mary-Kate or Ashley Olsen. A product that can be swapped out with one that does basically the same thing and no-one really notices the difference.

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So how do you differentiate your value?

With CONTENT

Content can make you stand out like Arnold Schwarzenegger towering over Danny DeVito in the movie Twins.

Look at what makes your company and products special, how do you solve your customers problems in the way that provides them the most value? Find the perspective that only you can provide; look to your company’s own experts, and your customers too. If you can find a niche where you can provide the most informative, engaging, and useful information, then plan to become the industry’s leading expert in that space.

With the right content and the right approach you can position yourself to tower over others who may think they are just like you. Remember – Be Arnold, not Mary-Kate.

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The Name is Bond, … Want to talk?

This is my 007th blog post of this year (according to the naming convention I use for these posts on my laptop), which seems appropriate as this week also marked the first release of any official photos and behind the scenes footage for the next James Bond movie, SPECTRE.

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I’ve been fascinated by the world of 007 for almost fifty years now, I’ve written one book about Bond and have a second one that will be published later this year. It’s not just the character himself that fascinates me, it’s the way that the franchise has developed over the years, constantly changing to meet new challenges, changing tastes, changing political landscapes, and reach new audiences across the globe. A core part of that has been studying the way that EON Productions and MGM have handled marketing the movies. The release of the photographs and video footage this week was part of EON’s long established practice of building interest in their movies over a period of several months; in this case about ten months, as SPECTRE isn’t scheduled to open till November. Bond movie production has always been a series of milestones: announcing the cast, the name of the movie, the start of filming, a look at the impressive sets, the song, the trailer; they are all marketing events.

But they are all still essentially broadcast events, they help build awareness of the brand, but they are definitely one way communication. It’s a “look at us and this cool thing we are doing” message. If Bond marketing falls down in one area when compared to other franchises, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, the Marvel movies etc., it’s engaging with their core customers, the fans.

Luckily many of the Bond writers, scholars, collectors, and fans makes up for that with a very lively, welcoming, inclusive, and fun informal community with an active collection of websites, social media feeds, blogs, podcasts, publications etc.

Among these one of the recent stand outs has been the emergence of the James Bond Radio podcast, and they did it by marketing through conversation.

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Launched only a year ago it is already the “must listen” podcast for Bond aficionados for its insightful reviews, news, interviews, and more. This isn’t just two guys telling us how much they enjoy Bond, although that is a recurrent theme, it’s an inclusive experience with fellow fans providing input for trivia quizzes, or even providing jingles. The associated Facebook page is a lively community with the hosts engaging in dialog with the listeners. To celebrate their successful first year they didn’t do a self-congratulatory show, instead they invited six of their listeners to be on the show and asked them the same Bond related questions they ask when introducing the various Bond related professional guests that have appeared to date, instantly placing the fans on the same level of conversation as anyone else. Whether they know it or not, the James Bond Radio guys are a great case study in Content Marketing and using the content they produce to engage with their audience to build not just brand awareness, but loyalty, and retention. How did I first find out about James Bond Radio? By recommendation from a friend in the Bond community – and personal recommendation is the strongest marketing tool there is.

Start a conversation with your customers and they can become your greatest advocates.

No Pain, No Gain.

I hate the gym. I’m happy to admit that. I’ve never consider myself to be any sort of athlete; and I find working out just for the sake of exercise boring in the extreme.

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As for pain, I’m a total wuss – I don’t like any sort of pain, so the tried and trusted mantra of

“No Pain, No Gain,”

has always been something of an anathema to me. – With one exception; Content Marketing.

We need to feel pain in business. Not physical pain, but the pains of delivering what we are in business to do. While overcoming our own business pains can indeed help us grow, that’s not the most important pain to consider.

The pain we should be considering, especially when it comes to Content Marketing, is our customer’s pain.

Every company, no matter what its size, exists to solve problems, be it with a product or a service. We are in business to fulfill a need, and that need is our customer’s need. We drive our revenue by making sure that we meet that need by solving the problems and pain points that stop our customers from being successful in their business and meeting their own customers needs.

Often as companies grow they lose sight of the customer and become more internally focused, especially in areas that don’t have direct contact with customers. As I mentioned a few blog posts ago, when that happens traditional marketing starts to be more about messaging how great we are and not what we can do to help.

Content Marketing changes that.

Content Marketing is about providing value to our customers to help them succeed; and to do that we need to know their pain points and focus on delivering the information, knowledge, and inspiration to remove that pain.

If you want to make business gains, then you need to start feeling some pain – just make sure that the pain you know most about is your customer’s pain – Then become the trusted source to ease that pain.

What Exactly is “Authentic”?

Authentic marketing – Isn’t that an oxymoron? Let’s face it historically the world of marketing has not been one where you would immediately relate truth with message. But times they are a changing, and today’s audience is quick to point out when we stretch the truth too far. (A topic I wrote about back in June 2009). But what about being authentic? – What does it mean to say that your content marketing efforts should reflect the authentic voice of your brand.

The dictionary definition of the word “authentic” according to Meriam-Webster is that it represents something that is “real or genuine: not copied or false.”

The chances are that your brand has an underlying brand promise or set of values that define you as a business. It’s what you are in business to do. To be “authentic” your content should reflect and communicate those values. Your messaging doesn’t have to parrot your brand promise verbatim, but the words, tone, images, colors, and the value of what you deliver should clearly support what the brand means to your customers.

Consider the kings of Content Marketing – Red Bull. They are all about energy. Their brand promise is that they “ will increase (their customer’s) performance, concentration, reaction speed, vigilance, and even well-being.”

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It’s arguable whether a can of caffine achieves those result in a healthy way, but it’s clear that their whole marketing effort from the “Red Bull gives you wings” tagline to their global sports and events sponsorship programs where people excel at extreme physical activities are an authentic reflection of the brand’s values and promise.