Flooring The Consumer on Simple Marketing Now

Please visit Flooring The Consumer's new home on SimpleMarketingNow.com where you can subscribe to receive updates to blog articles in real time!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Museum Innovation To Connect With Customers

The New York Times published a special section on Museums on 3/19/2009. Did you see it? It's filled with interesting innovations on how to connect with customers [a.k.a. customers, visitors, audiences...]

The articles that particularly appealed to me were:

+ Wish You Were Here by Carol Vogel

+ When the Gallery Is a Classroom by Dorothy Spears

+ Putting a New Emphasis on ‘Family Friendly’ by Karen Berman

I encourage you to read all three as they may inspire you with new ideas for your business.

To prove my point, here are some highlights.

Wish You Were Here offers several examples of unusual - i.e., really non-traditional - museum programs. Imagine combining Yoga and Art. Preposterous? Not if you are taking part in "Put the oM in MoMA." The reason: MoMA wants to connect with people.

The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles has organized a bike night around the screening of Breaking Away. Doesn't that sound like a blast? If you attend, would you let us know what you thought of it?

Museums have been forced to reexamine and reinvent themselves given the economic downturn and I applaud these creative solutions to draw visitors in. The article quotes the Met's director, Thomas P. Campbell: "This is a good moment to refocus and reinvigorate... we want people to know we're here and have been for 138 years. We're a place of infinite experiences." [The Met hosted over 20,000 different type events in 2008.]

Yes, museums certainly are - although they might not have been traditionally considered 'hip' or exuberant experiences. More like introspective and cerebral and perhaps more about the past than the present or the future.

Museums are rethinking their web presences, experimenting with 'new forms of marketing' and 'expanding public programs.'

This I consider particularly exciting: museums "have adopted the same mission: to transform the once-hushed museums into vibrant cultural centers where the activities go far beyond what's hanging on the walls." Wow!

Even advertising has changed from focusing on special blockbuster type exhibits to showing people "we're a haven, a place to explore, discover and find inspiration."

What that means is that museums have the potential to transform themselves into community centers. Isn't that a powerful way to showcase culture? Make it come alive and create renewed relevance for visitors in a much more inclusive and participatory way?

The benefit for museums is tangible: if audiences feel that they are being listened to, respected and served, they will be more willing to visit and give money in exchange.

Not too different from what retailers should be thinking about for their customers...

Other interesting points:

+ facebook pages to draw younger audiences to museums [e.g., the Brooklyn Museum even has a new social networking based tier of membership]

+ using the web to add dimension to an exhibit [e.g., the Walker and Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes or the Hammer which has extensive videos/podcasts]

The Brooklyn Museum of Art, BTW, has 10,449 records available online from its collections! And, then, definitely check out the Brooklyn Museum bloggers! Talk about bringing art to life...

The Walker Museum has a whole section dedicated to social media interaction.

MoMA encourages you to register to create your own collection of favorite works [look at bottom of page].

As with all things, don't forget the basics. Like expanding your hours or staying open on Holidays.

What I really like about In When the Gallery Is a Classroom is the desire to move "away from the authoritarian voice of a museum" and moving toward one where "everyone's perspective is valid, by providing a vibrant, intellectually rich - and safe - destination for young people from the local community." Imagine transforming a museum from a mausoleum to one of lifelong creativity and relevance [not too far removed from our need to reinvent our businesses so our experiences remain relevant].

The way to do that is "by creating an environment that's as warm and open as possible." Read about the Miami Art Museum's Brick by Brick program that connects artists, designers, educators and students and check out Brick x Brick, the program's blog.

The article brings up, particularly at the Cleveland Museum of Art, an increase in transparency - offering a behind-the-scenes perspective on the museum's activities. The better visitors can understand what you offer, the more they can be involved and derive value from you. I love the deliberate attempt to involve teachers to better expose children to the creative type of thinking that museums can offer.

"Putting a New Emphasis of 'Family Friendly'" describes others innovative approaches to attracting families into museums to ensure that younger generations become interested and find relevance. Here's the challenge: "people don't expect the museum visit to be passive. They need more than three dry sentences of wall text."

That's also our challenge in retailing. We offer primarily a passive experience, and it's a turnoff.

As you think through your retail experience, consider what museums are doing. There's plenty to be learned about Refocus Product: Retail As Curator & Less But Better, but even more when you consider how museums are reinventing how they connect with customers.

I'm really intrigued. Are you?

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Big News: Simple Marketing Now LLC

I have big news to share! As of 3/25/09, I've become Chief Simplifier of Simple Marketing Now LLC, my new marketing consultancy focused on bridging traditional marketing with social marketing to improve the customer experience.

That means that I am no longer associated with Solutia Inc. or the Wear-Dated brand.

How is that possible? Well, you see Wear-Dated - with which I've been associated since joining Solutia [Monsanto at the time] almost 16 years ago - has been sold to Mohawk Industries. It's very exciting news for the brand as it means a home where it will be valued and nurtured and promoted as it should be.

For me, it means change. Very exciting change. Change indelibly associated with my Dad's birthday [March 25th], too.

This new adventure builds off of what I do here on Flooring The Consumer with the retail experience and using new and social tools to engage with and enhance the customer experience -- as well as what I've learned developing the Wear-Dated website and creating The Carpetology Blog.

My new company's website is live. Please check it out and let me know what you think. You can find it at Simple Marketing Now LLC.

I've also launched Simple Marketing Blog which is the blog and newsroom for Simple Marketing Now LLC. To keep you up-to-speed, I'll share a monthly recap here with you. In addition to news specifically related to the business, I will cover relevant marketing and social media topics. The retail experience stays here.

Now, I may yet have something to do with the Wear-Dated website and The Carpetology Blog -- it's not clear to me as I write this. I'll keep you posted.

What is definite, though, is that I am fully engaged in this new adventure, and absolutely thrilled about the possibilities. If you'd like to explore ideas with me, please let me know. I'd be delighted.

As you might imagine, it's been quite a week given all of the changes... I never imagined, though, that there would be so many additional wonders.

+ My post A Rant Against Email Newsletters and Making It Easier to Manage Subscriptions was featured this week in MarketingProfs' Get To The Point on email marketing with Why Can't We Still Be Friends? [registration required]. Pretty cool, eh?

+ Renowned social media strategist Mack Collier, in his 3/26/09 MarketingProfs' online seminar titled Not Blogging Yet? What Marketers Need to Know to Get Started, referred to The Carpetology Blog - my Wear-Dated baby - as being an excellent example of broadening the conversation beyond the actual product. Even more cool!

I've included a screen shot of his slide to mark the moment. Note Mack's comment: "Is this a post about carpet, or decorating?"

[I understand it made a cameo appearance in Mack's followup 3/27/09 presentation which I need to catch via recording as I was doing a presentation at that time.]

And, then, there's the amazing support and encouragement that so many of you have offered me -- Toby Bloomberg, Susan Abbott, Becky Carroll, Ann Handley, David Polinchock, David Reich, CK, Chris Kieff, Doug Meacham, Steve Woodruff, Lori Magno, Shannon Bilby, Michael Rubin, Gavin Heaton, Tim Girvin, Linsey Levine, and many others.

You, my friends and readers, are the reason for Flooring The Consumer's success. Without that success, I couldn't have created Simple Marketing Now LLC. Thank you!

And, now, in the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "Engage!"

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Social Media Series: Mario Vellandi on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Mario Vellandi.

Mario Vellandi's passion for
"Authentic Green Marketing and Sustainable Product Development" shines strong in his blog Melodies in Marketing - which turns 2 on April 11th. That's where he explores innovation and marketing with a strong dose of design and creativity all relating to sustainability.

Mario contributed "Dancing to the Beet" to The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It? - the book that 237 authors from around the world collaborated on to benefit Variety, the children's charity [please consider buying the book]. His chapter truly bridges new & old via the example of "Heart Beet Gardening" "which builds vegetable gardens for schools, communities and home owners in Los Angeles, California" In it, he asks Accidental Marketer Sara how she goes about marketing. "...I just like talking to folks about the joy of growing and eating their own fresh food... Other than that, all the activities I plan and carry out help support that goal."

[Also check out Mario's suggestions in The Flooring Display Challenge - Part I. and I love his The Cluetrain Manifesto - My Review post.]

C.B.: Mario, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Mario: I became involved a few years ago after reading online articles about marketing and the developing "social web", and progressed from mere casual browsing into fervently reading and commenting on multiple bloggers' sites, employing Google reader to remain productive. In January 07, I participated in a MarketingProfs book club discussion on "Citizen Marketers" which propelled me into what became great personal relationships with a variety of smart individuals. A few months later, after being explicitly told that being an avid reader & commentator wasn't enough and that I had to start my own blog, I did. In some ways, it was a rite of passage for a true communal membership and participation.

My involvement in social media came down to three reasons: To connect with others interested in the subjects I'm passionate about, in a personal and academic manner; To share what I knew/was learning from books and professional experience; and To improve my writing and grow as an individual.

C.B.: How has social media/networking changed how you approach purchase decisions and the retail experience?

Mario: Well, even though I don't shop very much, I will say this: Word of Mouth (direct, indirect, and social review engines) has influenced my perception of product/service quality and retail experiences (even if I've never visited the store), thus affecting my shopping behavior. Examples. If I'm going to purchase any electronic device, book, game, or movie, I'll check out customer reviews on CNET, Amazon, and IMDB. If I'm looking for a great restaurant or other business where the product/service quality experience is subjective and unknown, I'll look on a review site like Citysearch. While this passive review investigation is standard procedure for many folks today, here's the kicker - The direct recommendations given to me, and the indirect observations, through conversations among individuals on blogs, twitter, and other participatory media, has affected and/or reinforced my feelings about both specific topics and brands. The classic retail WOM example I remember was from Paul McEnany who in late 07 went to a Kohl's store, saw a messy floor/aisle, took a picture, and blogged about it. At that point I had never been in a Kohl's even though there's one right down the street from me. But reading Paul's story, and the ensuing discussion all over the blogosphere, truly made me think Kohl's was like a Marshall's or TJ Maxx (to be fair, on a bad day), dressed up and laid out like a department store. A casual store visit 6 months later confirmed this perception.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Mario: The ability of folks to share and learn from each other.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Mario: As one becomes more involved in the space, managing multiple social profiles and updates becomes cumbersome and energy-draining. While on one hand it is a personal choice of how active one wants to participate, on the other it's a technical issue that will increasingly be addressed through profile sharing & login applications from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenID, and others employing RDF.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

- Start a blog and integrate any newsletters with it, so it's both available to existing and potential customers. Join Twitter.

- Monitor own & competitive brand conversations online and participate as appropriate to the context.

- Use available free/premium content creation and sharing sites as a publication & promotional tool, and as a means to interact with visitors and commentators.

- Communicate the availability of new media viewing and interaction options into the older media channels: in-person, telephone, television, print, website, and email marketing and signatures.

- Lose the business speak and learn & practice to speak personally. Professionalism and business policy need not be compromised. It's the tone of voice and demeanor that matter.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers?

Mario: Employ whatever tools and tactics you can to promote word of mouth communications, be they positive, mediocre, or negative. Use these opportunities to acknowledge user experiences, use them for authentic testimonials, and as a means of customer service and gathering feedback for product/service improvement and development.

Thank you, Mario!

Comments? Questions? Feedback?

How have social media tools changed how you go about the purchase process? Has it changed your buying habits and patterns?

What about the challenge of managing multiple social profiles?

What about Mario's suggestion to use "
free/premium content creation and sharing sites as a publication & promotional tool, and as a means to interact with visitors and commentators?" Have you found other tools to be as effective?

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Links Of Note: Creating Customer Value

Chain Linked originally uploaded by jhhwild.
These Links of Note had me thinking about creating value for customers.

Most important is not getting distracted with all of the marketplace negativity. In fact, I love that Alltop offers an Alltop for all the top Good and Uplifting news.

Have you read the Change This:: The Economy Survey? It represents 1400 responses to three questions: "In one word, sum up how you feel right now;” "How is this affecting you?” and; “What are you choosing to do about it?” I found it full of grounding inspiration.

Yes, these times generate anxiety, caution and concern. In fact, we should all read Robyn McMaster's Stress - Buster or Builder? and take to heart her suggestions. Do others come to mind? [Lately, I've been consciously 'breaking patterns' - working from a different space, experimenting with new gym class times, finishing 5-year old sewing projects, reaching out to people - to stay fresh and focused and not succumb to stress builders.]

Take these statements from The Economy Survey:

+ "tremendous opportunity to create the future for people."

+ "I'm choosing to use this as an opportunity to reevaluate what I want, who I am and how I am going to approach the next year."

+ "working together instead of competing with one another"

+ "it's time to create a new kind of heart-driven economy"

+ "I am choosing to remain a one-person source of energy."

+ "Shut off TV - especially the news and financial channels. Smile foolishly when people become too serious(-ly negative) about the economy..."

+ "This is a bold new time to try out fresh idea that would have been unconventional and risky six months ago, but what do we have to lose? Traditional methodologies won't apply."

+ "Look for ways to expand an offer our customers more value (they're suffering too).

In terms of offering customers more value, a good place to start is through the customer experience. What do you think constitutes the highest level of service possible?

For inspiration, read through this post from Becky Carroll titled Defining 5-Star Service. Here is Becky's favorite: "Client service excellence, just as with beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For that reason, 5-star service is more of a frame of mind aimed at the individual than a goal for the masses. It’s not about being all things to all people; it is about being specific things to specific people. "

This caught my attention: creating juxtapositions of value for customers, as Danny Brown describes in Incremental Marketing, Pizzaville Style. Pizza + Playing Cards. Makes sense, especially if you have taken the trouble to think through your specific customer's reasons for interacting with you. What about your customer? How might you offer "relevance and value - two key factors in customer loyalty?"

Let me know your thoughts.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Social Media Series: Karin Hermans on Bridging New & Old

Karin Hermans does an amazing job bridging new & old through her wood flooring business in the UK - Wood You Like - and her several blogs which she refers to as "dynamic websites."

[Note: this post also falls into the "Flooring It Differently" category.]

I first 'met' Karin through the Z list - dreamed up by Mack Collier - as we both had a connection to flooring and a strong interest in this amazingly social platform. I have since been 'floored' to realize what Karin has created via her dynamic websites and how, through her social explorations, she has ventured into webmarketing and blog workshops.

Karin is the author of The Kiss Business, a business novel about "the trials and tribulation of two 'foreigners' (Dutch) starting a retail business in Kent UK" and of the Kiss2 blog. 'Kiss' BTW refers to "Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business," a principle at the heart of everything Karin gets involved in.

C.B.: Karin, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Karin: Would you believe necessity? In June 03 both my partner and I were made redundant. We’d moved from The Netherlands to the UK especially for this job/adventure and when this went pear-shaped we had to decide: going back ‘home’ or going it alone? We choose for the latter and started on a shoe-string. A friendly web wizard taught me the basics of web design and SEO. During my keyword research I got involved with two DIY-forums (early form of Social Media Marketing?) and started answering questions about wooden flooring there.

The same web wizard suggested we add a blog to our ‘static' website, a free one first (blogger) but very quickly I switched to Typepad. Then after I’d published my debut business novel others suggested I should keep writing about practical business matters, which resulted in The Kiss Business too (2) blog. I remember vividly the ‘hype’ around the Z-list (end 2006), which brought me in contact with many other, mostly USA based bloggers. That led to dipping my toe in other SMM by reading and discussing about it on their blogs etc.

AWeber (does that count as SMM?) is a completely different story, one that our good friend and business consultant Richard C brought to my attention. Now that’s what I would call a potent media for small businesses. Side note in regards of my friend; after I bullied him into blogging the experience of teaching the blog benefits to others led to organising 1-2-1 blog-workshops and my “second” career into web marketing was born. (With its own blog of course, 1 Plus 1 Makes 3)

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Karin: The accessibility of so many Social Media Marketing tools for small businesses, it surely levels the playing field with the ‘big’ companies out there. Still think small businesses have an advantage over big corporations here. Especially retailers – like us – in a niche market.

Our interactive and dynamic website (aka blog) enables us to fine-tune the information on our main ‘static’ site and leaflets/wood guides. Some of the Q & A’s on the blog turn into new posts – the ‘client’ in fact contributes to our growing content – plus when compiling those articles we can easily produce “How To” guides: digital products we also sell. Because we are a specialised retailer – a two man/woman band – we can dedicate time to educate prospects/clients through our website, blogs, Q&A‘s through AWeber etc. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are new areas for our business to venture in, slowly.

What I also love about Social Media is from a learning point of view for business owners. Once you get involved in SMM – dipping your toes in, never jump right in! – you can encounter so many other business owners/managers who are all so willing to share what they’ve learned, how they use SMM, etc. Without blog-encounters, Facebook and LinkedIn friends all over the world I would not have learnt so much in so short a time as I have over the last 2 – 3 years. And it reflects in the success of our business I like to think – and my good friend /accountant /consultant is always eager and the first to confirm this.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Karin: Hypes! I like to look from the side-line for a while to ponder if, how and when a new tool or SMM platform can work for our business. Although we are still IMHO one of the first brick & mortar retailers who have utilised many SMM tools we are carefully to test the waters first on a small scale. It took a lot of hard work and time to grow from a ‘retailer’ working from home in the first two years into our, still very small, showroom retailer with a rather large in comparison web presence.

So we read and learn, test and measure and then decide yes or no instead of following every new hype that comes along. I must confess you can pick up little tricks from new tools/fads even if you don’t implement the whole thing.

A true pet-hate of mine is bloggers who don’t seem to care about their readers and can’t be bothered to reply or even acknowledge those who take the time and trouble to comment on their posts.

C.B.: How have you used social media to promote your business?

Karin: Blogs and forums mainly. Any which way we can. Like with so many other forms of promotion it takes time. But if you are willing to invest that time it brings in so many rewards! I’ve lost track of number of topics on the two DIY-forums that start with “Wood You Like, help!” or “Question for Wood You Like”. That didn’t happen overnight, it took time and the willingness from our side to give many answers freely without linking to our own website in every reply we posted. Now even trade magazines are starting to mention our online wood guides and our client base counts many DIY-ers from the forums.

We deal with small independent manufacturers, most are based in our home country The Netherlands, and all have subscribed to our newsletter. They read and see every month how we promote their products by using SMM – so they make a point of it releasing news to us very quickly as if we are a marketing/PR bureau instead of a small specialised client selling their products. ;-)

I love social media as a very direct and an almost intuitive interactive way to communicate with prospects/clients. Marketing becomes almost an afterthought sometimes, but of course it works hand in hand.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

1. Don’t be afraid to give. When we first started answering questions on the DIY-forums and allowing web visitors to ask questions on our own blog competitors thought we were crazy: you don’t give away free advice up front, only when the product is bought. Otherwise they use your information and buy somewhere else cheaper. It really doesn’t work this way. Of course there are those who do just that, but the amount of credibility you build up by giving first is tremendous. It’s the old reciprocation effect – as my friend Richard C always likes to point out to me.

2. Shrink-wrap your brain. There is a lot of information out there on the WWW, but turning info into usable knowledge gives you the edge. Everyone has manuals, white-papers etc about their own specialised field. It’s very easy to become a specialist. Make that knowledge available online, with or without a price-tag. People are willing to pay for those things that will save them loads of ‘search and compile’ time. And because you make it available you are seen as The Expert. And everyone wants to do business with The Expert.

3. Become independent from your web designer or IT department where web presence is concerned. Sounds harsh, but IT people are not marketing people – not in most cases. Fancy websites are great to see and might bring the designer many awards, but when your web visitors can’t find his way around your site he will leave – awards or not. Simple lay-out, easy navigation and interesting content will win the heart of your web visitor. I love the blog platform Typepad, it is not a freebie like WordPress can be, but the features of Typepad are so easy to use that even the most non-digital business owner can create and manage his/her own ‘blog-site’. I’ve got some examples on my port-folio page on the 1 Plus 1 Makes 3 blog. Traders mostly – a plumber, a bathroom shop and a water softener specialist. Hands on owners, but by using Typepad as their ‘website’ software all are getting more and more results from their dynamic website. Scoring higher and higher on google’s search engine results without having to pay over the odds or having to wait until their web designer has finally understood what they mean.

4. Implement an autoresponder email marketing tool – like AWeber - on your web or blog site. Because you have interesting and useful content your web visitor could very likely want to hear/learn more. Capture his name and email address with or without the promise of a small gift and continue your interesting content through opt-in email marketing. Build your relationship one message at a time. We had to create a whole new ‘customer-type’ in our admin system: “AWeber-clients” (first contact through one of our AWeber lists/campaigns) and it is one of the quickest growing client types we have.

5. Coming back to giving: learn from others by reading other blogs about SMM and if you think you can contribute to the conversation do so in the comment box. This way the blog-owner gets to know you, and all his/her readers will too. Don’t start linking to your own site or blog in the first every comment you make, give first – freely. If your comments are relevant they will come and check out your blog on their own account. Then your own ‘community’ will grow. IMHO there is no difference in email spamming or blog spamming – first make sure the receiver wants to hear from you. As with everything this too will take time, but see it as an investment over long term. Short term never worked, not in the old days and not in these new days.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relationships with customers?

Karin: Treat them with respect; deliver what you promise and more. There is no difference between face to face meetings with clients and interactive online “meetings”: deliver what you promise.

Don’t give up within one month of trying Social Media Marketing. The Internet seems to be working on ‘the fast lane’ but nothing could be further from the truth in regards of establishing a long term relationship with your customers. To build a strong and long lasting relationship you have to give your customer the time to recognise/experience you do take away all his/her doubts about doing business with you. That doesn’t happen in one single message, ad or banner. It didn’t in the old days; it doesn’t in these new days. Marketing might have changed its tools; the effect on relationships is still the same.

Thank you, Karin!

Comments? Reactions? Feedback?

What about Karin's approach of "read and learn, test and measure and then decide yes or no instead of following every new hype?" Any reactions or advice relating to Karin's experience with autoresponder email marketing tools?

I particularly like Karin's advice about being committed to social media marketing for the long haul so as to establish a credible long-term relationship with customers. And I love the notion of 'shrink-wrapping your brain.'

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Customer Service Like You Mean It!

My Wild River loves you!!! :))) originally uploaded by Denis Collette...!!!
Now that customers are in charge, Customer Service has taken on new meaning. It's no longer an afterthought. Rather, it's an integral part of how we go to market. It's customer service like you mean it!

If we truly believe in it, customer service becomes the basis for loyalty, community, and goodwill from our customers and a source of deep energy for our organization. That's the kind of customer service Toby Bloomberg refers to as "from the heart customer service" in her post Little Acts of Kindness.

I like the reference to 'from the heart' as it reminds me that, in the marketplace, we connect with one another as individuals, looking to offer others value in the form of solutions.

Ron Knoth makes that point in Customers Don't Shop Here, People Do. If our customers are guests in our stores, why do we treat them as poorly as we do? Don't we value them? Think of the opportunities inherent to truly expressing hospitality to customers, offering them true service. Intriguing, isn't it?

Even more powerful to realize that a true commitment to service and hospitality stirs serotonin! as Robyn McMaster explains. Imagine, we feel better by welcoming others and making them feel good. She offers the following strategies on how to make hospitality that much more special:

+ Welcome new folks to your table
+ Ambiance
+ Plan well ahead
+ Listen more than you talk
+ Be vulnerable
+ Don't expect paybacks

Toby, in her post, refers to the following Ten Simple Truths of Service. Consider them in combination with Robyn's list. [Do read the original post as Toby includes tips for each truth]:

1. Great Service Inspires Stories/Memories.
2. Great Service Uses Outside-The-Box Thinking
3. Great Service Is A Choice
4. Great Service Starts With A Clear Vision
5. Great Service Requires That Everyone Catch The Vision
6. Great Service Surprises People
7. Great Service Begins With Anyone
8. Great Service Goes The Extra Mile
9. Great Service Brings Customers Back
10. Great Customer Service Comes From The Heart

From the heart customer service automatically means that you really know who your customers are, as Michele Miller explains. Which leads to loyalty and more business.

Oh, and by the way, if you aren't totally on board with customer service like you mean it, it can sink you.

I know which I prefer. What about you?

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Rant Against Email Newsletters and Making It Easier to Manage Subscriptions

Intecom Plant Nursery Email Newsletter
Example originally uploaded by mckeanbarry.

This is a rant. I'll keep it short and to the point, but be warned. It's a rant and it's against email newsletters and how they allow you to manage your subscription.

[Note: this NO reflection on the image here. I really like how visual a statement it makes, and I'm willing to bet that it makes subscription management easy.]

You see, I'm having to modify many of my email subscriptions to reflect a new email address [yes, my life is changing; blogpost about that soon]. I'm actually astounded at how many - especially since I use RSS feeds - but they all matter and I need to reassign them.

Guess what I've discovered?

It's really easy to unsubscribe. But, it's really, really difficult to change your email address.

Don't believe me? Go try it out.

Do you know that lots of email newsletter platforms don't even take you to the organization's home page, let alone your account management page?

What's with that?

Do you know that for some, I've had to set up a totally new subscription for myself and then unsubscribe the old one? What's with that? Wouldn't it be more valuable and more efficient all around to have me modify my existing account? I'm willing to do it. I'm trained. So, why not make it easy for me to do that?

In some case, the language confuses. There may be a link to get to my account management, but for the life of me, I can't figure that out based on the options I'm offered.

I've had to open a separate search window to search for that site, log in [another headache] and then find my account management page. Couldn't it be a wee bit easier? After all, don't you want to endear yourselves to me? Can't you make it painless maybe even delightful to interact with you?....

For that matter, wouldn't you rather that I continue the relationship rather than dump you because you're such pain to interact with?

On the plus side, I've discovered interesting tidbits: I have two DIGG accounts, and no means of combining the two.

I'm done. As wonderful as email newsletters are, please, please, please consider how easy and intuitive your newsletters are for your readers to manage their account. Great job on unsubscribing, but how 'bout making it easier to have a longterm relationship?

Added 3/14/09:
I've just realized that Feedburner, through whom I distribute email updates for this blog, doesn't allow for easy subscription management. To change your email address, you need to resubscribe for the new and unsubscribe from the old address. I wonder how to get Feedburner to modify its system?

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Flooring It Differently With Social Media: Carpets By Otto

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Alan Woody. You'll note that I titled today's post "Flooring It Differently with Social Media." That's because Alan, as General Manager of Carpets by Otto, uses social media in his flooring business.

I 'met' Alan through The Carpetology Blog, when he helped me identify my Wow! Dallas carpet. I was astounded at what I discovered when I checked his site out. Hurray, I thought, finally a forward-thinking carpet retailer!

I love how the entire Carpets by Otto team appears online in the About Us section; they are also listed by name on the left sidebar with links to each's photo, responsibility and contact information. Entries aren't just about sales and promotions happening in-store; they also relate to the community, include YouTube videos and answer customer questions. Check out the photo album of completed projects. No surprise in my mind that Carpets by Otto has been "recognized as a leader in the industry by Shaw Industries Inc. (a division of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.) and selected as Northwest Ohio’s only Shaw Design Center partner."

Alan Woody graciously agreed to answer my many questions.

C.B.: Alan, would you share background on your store and you, and your role?

Alan: Carpets by Otto is a Toledo based company founded in 1969 by Otto and Dee Weik that has grown over the last forty years to become one of the largest independent flooring companies in Northwest Ohio. I have been with the company for over twenty years now, and as the General Manager my role is to make sure all our people have the tools and training they need to accomplish their assigned roles within the company. In addition, I handle of all advertising and technology related tasks such as our website.

C.B.: What inspired you to use a blogging platform for your website? Are you pleased with the decision? Why?

Alan: The choice of the Typepad blogging platform for our new site was inspired by my use of a similar service for my own personal website. I knew it would be low cost, which was key since we'd gotten quotes from professional web designers for between $5,000 and $10,000 to build us a custom site. This service is less than $20 a month! I also knew it would be very easy for me to operate and update, since I was already very familiar with it.

C.B.: Are you involved in other aspects of social media?

Alan: As a company we are not using any other social media at this time, however if I see a benefit to something that comes along I will certainly consider it. Got any suggestions? I'm not sure how Facebook or Twitter fits into doing business, but I would not be surprised if we are on there before long. Seems like this is the way forward online.

C.B.: What kinds of reactions have you received internally and with customers?

Alan: Reaction has been very positive. From looking at the visitor stats I can see how visitors get to our site, what pages they visit etc. and they really do seem to be using all of the site. Internally it's a no brainer since we saved so much money and can update it quickly as often as we like with no additional cost. The blog platform also lends itself to accumulating a large amount of content over time, and this keeps pushing up our placement in organic search engine results. Some of our competitors pay money for search engine advertising, and we get as good, if not better placement simply by virtue of the way our site is built and maintained.

C.B.: What do you like most about using social media?

Alan: The thing I like most about the blog is it's effectiveness. Our search engine rankings are improving all the time. For instance, as of today a Google search for "Shaw Anso Premier carpet" places us at #1 worldwide, above both Shaw and Anso! While this doesn't do much to drive business at the local level, it does tell me that a blog is far better than a static website at attracting search engines and by extension the users of search engines... which is EVERYBODY.

C.B.: What do you like least about using social media?

Alan: I can't think of anything I don't like about using a blog for our company's website. If you have a basic grasp of HTML, some graphic design software, and enough product knowledge to be able to write content about your products you are a good candidate for this type of site.

C.B.: What other marketing tools do you use?

Alan: The rest of our marketing program is traditional television and radio. We also own a large billboard at our warehouse which is right next to a major expressway. This billboard has in the past featured just our website address, in a kind of "got milk?" minimalist design that was very effective at raising awareness.

C.B.: What kind of steps do you take to integrate your social media platform with more traditional marketing programs?

Alan: We recognize that the majority of today's consumers are web users, so we are sure to include the website address in all our other advertising materials and collateral. If a customer is making a decision about where to buy their floor we believe our website is our second best spokesperson after their sales representative, and if they haven't been to a store yet it's our only spokesperson!

C.B.: Given your successes, what suggestions do you have for other companies to implement so they can more effectively connect with customers?

Alan: Connecting with customers is simply making yourself available to them by whatever means they prefer to communicate by. If they want a phone number, we've made them available. If they want a fax number, they're all on our site. If they want a website, we're easy to find. If they want their individual sales reps e-mail address, we've made all of that available on the site too. We are very accessible to our customers, which I believe makes my entire team more responsive and more effective.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers.

Alan: I believe social media will grow in importance as more people become accustomed to it, and I believe we will be strongly positioned when that day comes, but right now most customers are using our blog as they would a traditional website. Very few customer have used the comment feature for instance, but I'm sure that will change.

Comments? Questions? Reactions? Isn't Carpets by Otto's website a fantastic social media example?

Thank you, Alan, for sharing your experience bridging new & old with us. Talk about Flooring It Differently with social media! I look forward to hearing what you next find success with.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Monday, March 09, 2009

7 Things About Me

Seven originally uploaded by {platinum}.
Daria Radota Rasmussen from Social Hallucinations tagged me in the 7 Things About Me meme. Yes, it was a few months ago. But, seriously, I'm doing better than I was in the Fall as it's only March and, well, lots has been going on as I will relate in a separate post.

As I thought about this meme, I couldn't help but think back on other similar type memes. There have been quite a few... More specifically, Five Reasons Why I Blog, Half Full or Half Empty?, Connecting Via 8 Random Things About Me, Northern New Jersey and Me: Perfect Together!, May's Child Is..., 4x4 About Me..., My Media Diet, 8 More Things Meme - With a Social Media Slant - and that doesn't include the 25 Random Things About Me one circulating on Facebook!

I felt daunted. What else might be of interest to share about me? Yes, I really love white chocolate and dislike dark chocolate. And, I hate that Russell Stover no longer makes those scrumptious white chocolate covered whipped cream filled eggs at Easter. I hope that I'm not alone, but given that they're gone, there can't be too many of us out there.

My love of white chocolate dates back to my childhood when my mother dragged me shopping on weekends, bribing me with a helium-filled balloon and marvelous chunks of white chocolate that she purchased from the department store confectionery stand [remember when department stores sold candy by the pound?].

Then I started thinking about this gloriously unexpected, intellectually stimulating and socially uplifting journey that I've been engaged on since June of 2006. It has shaped who I am today personally and professionally. I shudder to think where I would be without it....

It has affected how I view local stories and community. Do you realize how much of local lore never gets captured or shared, even though digital traces exist here and there? I've learned that firsthand via my personal blog, The Smoke Rise Blog about where I live. Not only have I discovered history and local dimension, but also amazing community and delightful conversations - all a result of sharing perspectives on local experiences and resources.

At the same time, I'm sensitive to how many aren't immersed in the digital world, or only peripherally at best. And, it's not all age related; rather, it relates to relevance. So how do we connect with those who don't see the relevance? How do we make sure not to lose the benefit of those perspectives and voices? Certainly by bridging new and old, right? That has been at the heart of my social media series about Bridging New & Old.

Discovering unexpected instances of businesses combining traditional marketing with new tools absolutely delights me. If you know of some I should consider, would you let me know?

Many of you have asked about "C.B." and what the initials stand for. They stand for "Christine" and "Bergin," my middle and maiden name. Way back when, in Ivory Coast, my friend Danielle and I would refer to one another using our initials [DA and CB]; in college, my friend Anne Bradner called me CB [she was AB] and, when I first joined Monsanto, I became "CB" because we had another Christine in the New York office already. It seemed right to blog here as C.B.; I treasure that many only refer to me as C.B. as a result of this blog!

So, there you have it: seven more things about me!

Here are 7 who have already participated in the 7 Things About Me meme:
+ Drew McLellan
+ Leigh Householder
+ Toby Bloomberg
+ Liz Strauss
+ Phil Gerbyshak - Congrats, Phil!
+ Beth Harte
+ Amber Naslund

I invite the rest of you all to participate, too, if you haven't already.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Links of Note: BRITE '09 Conference

Links originally uploaded by Paul O'Connell.
It's Friday. Late. What an amazingly thought-provoking and inspiring week after BRITE '09 at Columbia University. I count my lucky stars to be actively participating in these truly unprecedented times with marketing taking on the role of a lifetime facilitating conversations with customers, redefininig customer service and leading the way toward cooperative, co-creative, interactive ways of creating and delivering value with customers.

Although I took copious notes and will be sharing insights with you, I need to digest them all and put them into context.

In the meantime, though, I thought I would share with you Links of Note relating to BRITE '09.

By the way, major kudos to David Rogers, Executive Director of Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership, host of the center’s BRITE conference and jazz musician extraordinaire. This week's event was outstanding!

And, Thank God! for my friend, David Polinchock from the Brand Experience Lab, who did a masterful job live blogging and tweeting the event. I don't know how he does it -- and I sat next to him and still couldn't figure it out! However, his summaries are terrific:

Day One:
+ BRITE 09, Digital Marketing that Works -- Cases from the Front Lines with Jeff Fleischman, Senior VP, Customer Experience, Citibank, and Darryl Gehly, Executive VP, Isobar.

+ BRITE 09, Digital Marketing that Works with Max Kalehoff

+ BRITE 09, Digital Marketing that Works with Sanjay Sood [and a terrific article from the conference from MediaPost on Movie Marketing].

+ BRITE 09, The Future of Media and the Prospects for Brands with Avner Ronen, CEO of Boxee [also, see boxee: the open, connected, social media center for mac os x and linux].

+ BRITE Conference: The Future of Media and the Prospects for Brands with Steve Rubel.

+ BRITE Conference: Crowdsourcing, Tribes, and Online Communities with Jeff Howe, Contributing Editor, Wired Magazine, and author of "Crowdsourcing"

+ BRITE Conference: Crowdsourcing, Tribes, and Online Communities with Mark Yolton, Senior VP, SAP Community Network, SAP

+ BRITE Conference: Crowdsourcing, Tribes, and Online Communities with Adam Nash, Senior Director of product development, LinkedIn.

+ BRITE Conference: Innovation and the Next Generation of Business with Umair Haque, Director, Havas Media Lab with an amazing presentation tool and an intense message.

+ BRITE Conference: Innovation and the Next Generation of Business with Aaron Cohen, Founding Partner, TechAviv & Yaron Samid, Founder, TechAviv.

From David Rogers' BRITE Blog, here is his summary from Day 1 -36 Ideas I Got from BRITE '09 (Day 1).

Day 2 kicked off with Seth Godin discussing his most recent book Tribes. Agenda: BRITE '09 conference on branding, innovation, and technology.

And, then, we broke into small groups. I attended the same first session that David P. did. Agenda: BRITE '09 conference on branding, innovation, and technology called "Beyond Advertising: New Practices in a Digital Age." Participants included:
  • Ross Buchanan, Director, Digital and Relationship Marketing, Molson
  • Alyson Meranze, VP, Digital Content & Strategy, American Express
  • Freddy Mini, CEO, Netvibes
  • Eli Noam, Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School, and Director of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information
  • Don Sexton, Professor, Columbia Business School, and Director, the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business
He then attended Bernd Schmitt's session - BRITE '09 Next Wave of New Media and How It Will Shape Customer Experiences of Brands - discussing how brand advertising went from very feature/benefit advertising to more emotional advertising.

And from NY Convergence, additional perspective on Seth Godin and Session 4.

I attended a fascinating session on creative breakthrough thinking where we took part in a practice exercise re: saving the New York Times.

Stay tuned for more from me. Definitely check out the BRITE Blog and the BRITE Twitter stream.

[For reference, here is the Agenda: BRITE '09 conference on branding, innovation, and technology.]

And let me know what kinds of ideas and possibilities these Links of Note from BRITE '09 generate. Have a wonderful weekend!

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...