competitive advantage, Customer Service, differentiation, good will creation, Memorability, sales, traditional marketing, User experience

Employing a “Dinosaur” Marketing Practice to Keep From Going Extinct

Last week, I went “in town” (traveled from my office on the South Shore into Boston) to meet with a client. As I often do when I make the 45+- minute commute to meet with a client, or attend an industry or networking event, I ran a few errands after my meeting. There’s always a birthday gift or a new book to be bought, right? I stopped at Copley Place/The Prudential Building to buy a couple of ingredients that Sur La Table and Eataly carry, and also visited Barnes & Noble to purchase “The Secret” (a cool treasure hunt guide with a Boston reference).

Initially, I thought I was just having a lucky or “random acts of kindness” day, because employees in each of the businesses I mentioned above were so welcoming, helpful, or kind — something I hadn’t experienced to such a degree at retailers in a while. But, then it struck me on my journey home, how much retailers must be recognizing the need to step up their customer service game if they want to survive in the next year, never mind the next ten.

I’m likely stating the obvious here, but the plethora of online shopping opportunities, particularly, Amazon.com, is causing retailers across the U.S. to close their physical shops/locations in busy downtown areas and shopping malls. Whether it be filing for bankruptcy or completing closing up shop (literally and figuratively), recent victims of the uptick in online (particularly one-stop) shopping include Papyrus, Payless Shoes, Forever 21, Barneys New York, Gymboree, and more. And, it’s common knowledge, that time-honored retail giant, Macy’s, whom families have visited for generations, will be closing numerous storefronts.

As a marketer, I’ve always felt and known that customer service can make or break you, and if an organization’s service is outstanding or unique enough from that of competitors’ it can be a true differentiator. That’s why I’ve discussed this topic previously in my “In Praise of Praise” and “Why You Should Remind & Require Employees to ‘Do Your Job’ And Do It Well” blog posts.

My aforementioned shopping experience in Boston leads me to believe that many retailers are now coaching and requiring their sales staff to deliver exceptional service in hopes of maintaining a strong physical vs. online consumer following. So what were some of the stepped-up customer service tactics I experienced at the retailers mentioned above?

  • lots of smiles from individuals working on the floor of stores or at the registers
  • being greeted when I walked in the door
  • being asked by more than one employee if they could help me find anything or if I was finding what I was looking for
  • being offered food samples
  • being given double the portion of the food item I was purchasing (but only paying for the original one portion) and being alerted to that by the employee
  • displaying interest in my needs, my life, what problem I was looking to solve, etc.
  • engaging me in a lengthy conversation related to a product I was purchasing and why I was excited about it, and sharing in my enthusiasm

Based on the way I was made to feel noticed, valued, and important, I will definitely revisit all the physical stores of these retailers again. I’m someone who enjoys chatting with salespeople at stores, window-shopping, and being able to feel, test, try on, etc. a product I’m hoping to buy. Part of that may be due to the fact that I work out of my home office and all my co-workers are virtual. I welcome getting away from my office once in a while and excursions that provide opportunities to socialize. I know this does not hold true for all consumers, though — many don’t want to have to socialize with salespeople or leave their home to run an errand after a busy workday.

I’ve shared all of the above as a reminder and warning to anyone who is responsible for sales at their particular organization, regardless of the organization’s nature. Great customer service never grows old or goes out of style! It’s as relevant — in fact, it may be more relevant — than it was in the 1800’s (hence, the exaggerated dinosaur reference in my blog post title) when Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Bloomingdale, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barnes & Noble opened their doors. While I do hope this stepped-up customer service effort will keep the retailers I cited from losing their brick & mortar presence, I wonder if such an effort might have kept them from being where some of them are today — close to closing up shop.

Being Found on Google, digital marketing agency, direct mail, Google Analytics, keywords, marketing consultant, Nonprofit Marketing & Communications, online advertising, organic SEO, paid search, pull marketing, push marketing, Results Analysis, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEM, SEO, target audiences, technical SEO, User experience, website

Why "If You Build It, They Will Come" Doesn't Always Hold True

Over the past six years, as a digital marketing agency owner and marketing consultant, I’ve had so many prospective clients approach me with a specific marketing tactic/activity that they’d like me to implement on their behalf. As I’ve repeatedly expressed on social media, in other blog posts, and in my website’s content, I never encourage clients to implement or continue with a marketing activity that doesn’t make sense for them. So, as part of discussing the particular tactic for which they’d like my help, I do a “preliminary check” to see if their website is “optimized for search,” and, therefore, likely to be found by individuals searching on relevant terms for the products, services, and solutions to problems the client in-question provides. Instead of a costly advertising campaign or direct mailer, the client might be better served investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which could have longer-lasting impact.

You would be amazed by the number of organizations — both large and small — who have spent significant $$ and time to launch a comprehensive, user-friendly, informative website, but didn’t realize they needed to implement off-page (behind-the-scenes tags) and on-page (content) SEO tactics in order for their site to be found on Google. Some website developers and designers are well-versed in SEO, others aren’t, and don’t offer the service automatically, or as an add-on when launching a new site.

The above means that a for-profit or non-profit organization may have invested in a beautiful, effective website as far as design, user experience, functionality (interactive tools) and content goes, but they won’t likely benefit from it to the degree to which they could/should. Their site becomes like a pretty little unknown island that no-one knows is there, and therefore, no-one visits. In sum, building their new site, didn’t mean people would come.

Another factor related to lack of visitors may be this. If the products, services, or solutions to problems an organization offers are not ones that individuals are aware of, and therefore, aren’t actively searching on, even the most-optimized-for-search website isn’t going to get a lot of visits that stem from search engine inquiries. If your product or service is a brand new one — think something you’d see on Shark Tank — your target audience may not even realize a product or service like yours exists. Or, particularly, if you’re a B2B (business-to-business) organization, prospective clients may identify an organization like yours by asking one of their contacts or colleagues for a referral.

Both of the scenarios outlined in the paragraph above equate to your organization not being able to rely on “organic search” to drive traffic to your website. But, if you want and need to confirm that individuals aren’t actively searching to find an organization like yours, read our recent post that explains how keyword research can help you figure out whether or not individuals are searching to find an organization with your capabilities.

So, what are the takeaways from everything we’ve shared so far in this post, i.e., how do you ensure “if you build it they will come?

  1. Don’t assume that searchers are searching to find you and/or what you offer. Take the following steps to determine if they are searching to find you, and how.
    • use your Google Analytics data to see what percentage of your traffic is organic (comes to your site as the result of a visitor clicking on a search engine results listing)
    • use your Google Search Console data to see for what search terms, if any, Google is presenting a listing with a link to your website in search engine results, and the # of individuals who are clicking-thru to your site as a result of it being presented
    • conduct keyword research for the specific geographies you serve to determine whether or not a significant volume of individuals is searching to identify an organization likes yours
  2. If the above exercises reveal that the percentage of organic traffic to your site is low (less than 30%), and your website isn’t being presented in search engine results for relevant search terms (keywords), but keyword research indicates a large number of individuals in your geography are searching for the solutions, products and services you offer, then you should optimize your website for search, i.e., implement organic/technical SEO tactics
  3. If keyword research indicates that only a small number of individuals in your geography are searching for an organization with your capabilities, it’s time to consider “push” vs. “pull” marketing. Push marketing is all about putting the idea of your product/service in individuals’ heads and making them aware that a your solution to their problem exists. Display vs. search advertising is just one form of this and this blog post explains the push vs. pull dynamic, but there are many other forms of push marketing, such as an e-mail campaign, print or broadcast advertising, or a direct mail campaign.

Results Communications & Research is always here to make sure your website isn’t an island onto itself, so reach out to make sure it gets the admiring visitors it deserves.

brand promise, competitive advantage, Customer Service, differentiation, good will creation, Memorability, Uncategorized, User experience

Why You Should Remind & Require Employees to “Do Your Job” and Do It Well

In my last blog post, “In Praise of Praise”, I shared my thoughts about how, in this day and age of “digital sharing”, an organization’s success or failure may be very dependent on customers’ online reviews/ratings. The same success-failure relationship holds true for an organization’s customer service quality, which, of course, individuals likely take into consideration when reviewing or rating an organization online. As a marketer, I’ve always believed prompt, effective, exemplary, and customer-satisfying customer service delivery is an organization’s most important marketing tactic and a marketing “no-brainer” along with having an effective website that is optimized for SEO. In very competitive markets, where there is little differentiation between products or services offered, it often is the one and only true differentiator.

I’ve also always been a big stickler when it comes to doing your job and doing it well — this includes having high expectations of myself as well as my co-workers, and thus, my always wanting to deliver outstanding work, both in corporate and consulting roles. I’ll never forget how, while employed at my very first permanent post-college job in a prominent bank’s corporate banking area, it was noted in my review as a criticism that I had too high or unreasonable expectations of co-workers. I couldn’t understand that being a negative trait at the time, and I still don’t comprehend why it was a perceived as a weakness that I would voice a concern to my manager whenever staff in the Bank’s wire transfer area messed up a transfer for the Bank’s biggest corporate customer — whose relationship I and my boss managed.

DO YOUR JOB

Fellow Bostonians and fans of the New England Patriots are sure to be familiar with the “Do Your Job” command associated with Coach Bill Belichick in recent years. I’ve been thinking about this statement a great deal lately, primarily because I have had, or friends and family have shared with me, so many recent experiences where individuals didn’t, had to be pushed to, or refused to do their job. It seems like it’s becoming more and more common for individuals to:

  • deliver slow or no service
  • express through body language or spoken language that they’re annoyed that they have to serve or help you, or that you asked them to serve or help you
  • ask you to self-serve or do their job for them
  • be immersed in their cell phone and not their job
  • continue talking with their co-workers when they see you standing at the counter or in line waiting to be helped

A couple examples of the above. Earlier in the week, my husband and I visited a popular and busy museum in New York City. The individual working at the coat check did not speak to us at all when we came to pick up my coat and bag, despite having chatted quite a bit with us when we dropped them off. Instead, she was very slow to get up out of her chair and get our things for us, and seemed very irritated that she had to do so. The fact that she had spoken with us previously meant there wasn’t any kind of language barrier getting in the way of her communicating with us. Therefore, she could have said “thanks” when we handed her our token and ticket to pick up the items, wished us “a good evening” as it was late in the day, or commented or asked about our visit or about our returning to the Museum. Even a smile would have gone a long way with us.

A family member recently needed help with a technical issue he was having with some software. He couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t able to get the software to function right, despite numerous attempts to use it to accomplish a necessary task. Instead, he was asked to do an extensive amount of trouble-shooting and rework on his end by the software company, when the individual with whom he was interacting could have easily identified the glitch/helped him resolve the issue. Basically, he was being asked to self-serve. And — I know I’m stating the obvious — that’s a common occurrence right now. We’re being asked now to regularly self-serve at checkout lines at the grocery store or pharmacy when we purchase products, and even self-serve related to services we receive.  And, even some smaller shops have implemented such technology.

Sure there are times when it’s helpful or quicker for customers to be able to self-serve, but I don’t believe that individuals should ever be forced to self-serve, and if we have to self-serve, shouldn’t we receive some kind of product or service price discount? Self service should be just one of several service options offered to customers. By offering self-service, organizations may believe their customers will be more satisfied, and in some cases, that may be true, but the organization also misses out on the opportunity for an individual to rave about the exceptional/outstanding/world-class service they received — service that may be the deciding factor in whether they return to a store location or use a particular service again, or the deciding factor among those with whom a client shares information about your organization’s service level.

patriots

So, what are the marketing and management implications of all of the above?

  • Managers of front line staff need to regularly conduct an assessment of how those customer-facing staff are doing their jobs and if they are doing it well via:
    • service surveys conducted of customers — I’m going to give a shout-out to the Lucerne Hotel in NYC — because they recently surveyed me with an online tool at the beginning of my stay and after my stay. Way to stay on top of any possible customer service issues!
    • hiring a mystery shopper to provide customer service experience feedback if your organization has one or several storefronts or locations where individuals receive face-to-face/in-person service from an employee
    • customers reviews posted on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and any other rating/review sites that might be relevant to your particular industry
    • other tactics, such as listening in on a staff member’s phone call with a customer (this should not be done without the staff member being aware of it, of course, or at least aware that, at any point, you might might be listening in on a customer call)
  • Organizations should ask themselves whether ALL of their target audiences/customers will welcome having to self-serve. If the answer is “no,” and there are customer or prospective client audiences who likely won’t welcome self-service, then a service option where an organization’s employees assists or waits on customers is required.

I’d so welcome hearing your thoughts and experiences related to being the victim of someone’s unwillingness to do their job or being forced to self-serve. So, please do share!

keywords, SEO, target audiences, Target Marketing, Uncategorized, Understanding Your Environment, User experience, website

Are You Hurting Your Organization By Using “Internal Speak” With External Audiences?

During the past couple of months, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to discuss and help prospective and existing clients with their SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is a must for any organization that hangs a shingle. Unless your business is strictly a referral-based organization, and that’s the only way you tend to generate sales, you need to do all you can to make sure listings with links to various pages of your website appear at the top of search engine results for terms you deem relevant and desirable. That way, online “searchers” for your particular product or service can easily find you, and find you before your competitors.

Are You or Your Marketing & Sales Team Wearing Blinders?

blinders on related to seo

A critical SEO error I’ve been seeing organizations make is this — they don’t walk in the shoes of one or several of their target audiences. Sometimes, individuals responsible for sales and awareness-generation get so caught up in their organization’s inner/internal world (and in the case of this blog post, “internal” can mean internal to both your organization and your industry), they get blinders on, and are guilty of the following SEO blunders:

  • Overuse of Acronyms and Industry Terms — using acronyms or industry terms on their website that some or all of their external audiences likely won’t understand. Regardless of whether acronyms or terms you are considering using are used in a particularly industry vs. only used within your organization, before you use them, give great thought to whether any of your target audiences widely uses or would understand them, and be sure to explain what they mean to audiences who don’t — as I did with the acronym “SEO” in my first paragraph. You can do this by adding a brief explanation in parentheses after the acronym or industry term in-question, or linking to a definition or explanation elsewhere on your site or on another credible external site.
  • Creative Phrase/Name For Common Product or Service — to differentiate themselves from a competitor, coming up with a creative phrase to replace the normal or common term used for that same product or service. Organizations must keep in mind that just because they want to be known for/by this differentiating phrase, that doesn’t mean target audiences will be searching on that term, which could have a very negative impact on driving traffic to your site. Let’s say a firm offers financial planning services, but wants to refer to those services via a catchy, memorable phrase like “milestone money maximization”. If they only use the “milestone…” phrase throughout their website, searchers looking for “financial planning services” aren’t going to learn of them via a search engine search, as the search engine won’t find and index that phrase on their website.
  • Ignoring Needs of Certain Audiences — not addressing all of their audiences. As discussed above, while “internal speak”, such as acronyms and industry terms, may work for one audience, they may not work for all. For example, an organization may get client referrals from professionals such as healthcare providers, CPAs, lawyers, etc., but individuals may also come directly to the organization vs. being referred by a professional. That organization needs to make sure they use language that is understood by and resonates with both professionals and direct users of the service aka “lay people.”

One of the SEO services we offer, and with 30 years of marketing experience we’re experts in doing so, is review of websites with an objective, external eye, while wearing the shoes of each of a client’s audiences. We can fairly quickly identify where and how you might be negatively impacting your organic SEO, and ultimately, limiting sales and awareness among desired external populations, through “internal speak.”

integrated marketing, landing pages, online advertising, User experience, website

Ensuring a Smooth Landing for Ad and Link Clickers

aircraft-holiday-sun-tourism-104826.jpeg

A “landing page” is simply the Web site page that ad and link viewers arrive at when they they click on an ad or link presented to them. A leader at a former corporate marketing job of mine used to say, “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” This provides a good framework for thinking about the content and/or images that should reside on your landing page. Clickers expect to land on a page that is relevant to the content and/or images found in the ad on which they clicked or to the content that introduced a link you shared.

In keeping with the above, whether the advertiser’s objective for sharing a link or presenting an ad is to cause a sale or other desired action, or to simply create awareness of their organization or products and services among prospective customers/target audiences, it’s critical that the advertiser provide a cohesive, effective, thoughtful experience to link and ad clickers by:

  • ensuring that the Web site page on which a clicker lands contains information about the specific product, service, or topic promoted in an ad or link
  • repeating on the landing page verbiage used in an ad or in introducing a link
  • if images and branding elements such as specific colors, designs, and logos are included in an ad or link introduction, including them on the landing page as well
  • if clickers land on a Web site page from what’s known as a “search” ad, i.e., an ad that was presented to them because they entered search terms relevant to the advertiser’s product or service in a search engine, such as Google or Bing, employing those identical search terms or synonymous ones in landing page content
  • not “bait and switching” or surprising ad or link clickers. There’s no easier or better way to create ill will among prospective customers/your target audience than promoting “red wool coats” and then presenting them with information on “green rubber boots.” It’s deceptive marketing and, even if search engine advertising vehicles will approve such a misleading, non-cohesive set up with your ads and landing pages, the advertising platforms will surely ding you by charging you more to have your ads presented and by presenting your ads far less frequently than your competitors for relevant search terms. Search engines who offer advertising want to present searchers with the best possible match for their search terms. They don’t want to tarnish their own reputation.
  • creating landing pages that are clean, concise and not too busy. Ideally, landing pages would be dedicated to the product, service, or topic promoted in the ad or link and not contain information on other products, services, or topics. However, if an advertiser has time and budget constraints related to creating a focused landing page for a promotion, at a minimum, the landing page should be uncluttered enough for the ad or link clicker to easily identify the information promised via the ad or link-accompanying content — therefore, readily find what he is she was looking for.
  • making “calls-to-action” highly visible and obvious. If an advertiser’s objective behind an ad or link promotion is to cause the clicker to take a desired action on their site, whether it be purchasing a product, signing up for an e-newsletter, or completing an inquiry form, then buttons or text that call out how and where to take those desired actions should contain clear direction and be prominent.

We loved to hear what else you think makes for a smooth landing for clickers, so please do share! And, we always welcome a discussion with you about your Web site landing page challenges and opportunities.