Your small customers are now big

We’ve all read about how the Internet and social media has changed things for business. Customers now have a much louder voice through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, foursquare, etc. Some companies get it, some are learning, and some are still hoping if they don’t look, maybe it will all go away.

Recently, my company moved its sales team to the Salesforce.com platform. I am very lucky that I work for a company that sees the value of using leading edge technology. With the adoption of Salesforce, all sorts of possibilities are opened up from a Marketing perspective. Having our sales information in the cloud enables us to do a lot of exciting things. With that, we started looking for an application to run our email campaigns that would integrate with Salesforce. We did a lot of research, viewed a lot of demos and finally decided on ExactTarget.

I went to ExactTarget’s website and filled out a form explain our usage and provided our contact info. We were not going to be confused as a heavy user by any means, but a user non-the-less. I waited. Two days, three days, nothing. I called ExactTarget. The woman I spoke with said she saw my info and that someone would contact me shortly. Four days, nothing.It was then that I was given the name of a local reseller of ExactTarget. I called them and got our account set up very quickly. We were set to go, or were we?

There were problems from the beginning. Too many to go into. But it wasn’t the functional problems that bothered me the most, it was the lack of response from ExactTarget. They viewed us as a small customer so they didn’t care. We were promised fixes numerous times but nothing ever materialized. We eventually realized that things would probably never get fixed because ExactTarget didn’t care if they got fixed. We would generate very little revenue for them so they weren’t going to put valuable resources into fixing our problems.

This approach to business may have worked in the past when customers had no real way of making their displeasure known. But the Internet changed things. I went to the Salesforce AppExchange and voiced my displeasure. I gave ExactTarget very poor ratings. And wouldn’t you know it? Within 30 minutes I got a call from ExactTarget. The problem still wasn’t fixed, and we’ve moved on.

The lesson here is that EVERYONE now has a voice. Your biggest AND smallest customers. 10 years ago a company could get away with ignoring their smallest customers, but not anymore. The smallest customers often have the biggest voices. Its important to make sure they are happy.

 

Relationship versus transactional

I heard a great discussion on the Rob Black radio show yesterday about relationship versus transactional businesses. The gist of if was this. Know which one your business is and operate things accordingly. How do you know which one you are? Here are some guidelines:

Relationship
You rely heavily on word of mouth business.
You see your customers on a regular basis.
You know things about your customers outside of what they purchase from you.
You take the time to make sure your customer gets what they need.
Discounts don’t usually drive more business.
You use the term “client.”

Transcational
Your focus is on getting the sale processed quickly and accurately.
You focus on giving the customer what they ask for not what they need.
Discounts increase the volume of orders.
You use the term “order” and the term “customer.”
You know little about your customer outside of what they purchase from you.

These are just some of the indicators of Relationship versus Transactional. Both of these models work if done correctly. The key is to know which one you are and market your business accordingly. I will go into the marketing aspect of each in future posts.

Comcast just doesn’t get it

The other day I get on knock on my door. I opened it to see a representative form AT&T. He goes on to inform me that they just finished laying fiber optics in the neighborhood and can now offer a substitute to Comcast which is my only option when it comes to cable television. I take the fliers he offers, say thanks, and tell him I will read over them.

Later that day I flipped through the information and see that they offer more for less than I am currently paying. Interesting from two perspectives. One, I can get channels that I currently don’t get for less money and two, AT&T obviously did their homework and is offering just a bit more for just a bit less than Comcast. Very smart.

Now, I hate the idea of going through all the trouble to switch cable providers. So, I call Comcast and explain to them what AT&T is offering and ask if there is anything they can do. More channels? Lower my monthly bill? Anything? “Nope, sorry,” the guy from Comcast tells me. “I wish I could do something but I don’t have anything I can offer you. Would you like me to schedule a time to disconnect your service?”

What?!? The guy actually offered to get rid of me as a customer before I even asked him to. I was shocked and really didn’t know what to say.

“Umm, not yet. Let me see when AT&T can come out and install their service. I’ll call you back,” was my reply.

To make a long story short. I got AT&T’s service installed and its been great. But the real shocker came when I called to cancel the Comcast service. The conversation went like this.

“Hi, this is Brian. Thank you for calling Comcast. How can I help you.”

“Hi Brian, I’d like to discontinue my service.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Was there a problem with the service.”

“No, I’ve just decided to go with AT&T’s cable package.”

“That’s unfortunate. If I take $20 off your bill or offer you more channels could I get you to change your mind?”

Despite having lots to say to Brian, I simply said “no thank you” and had him discontinue my service. I’m not sure what is going on over at Comcast but they better put together a cohesive strategy for dealing with customers that want to switch to competitors or they’re not going to be around much longer.

So the moral of the story is:
1) Know your competition.
2) Don’t offer to “disconnect” your customers.
3) Have a cohesive message across your organization.

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone the very best no matter what it is you are celebrating. Happy Holidays to everyone. Here’s to hoping for a better 2009.

Shouting is not marketing

We’ve all seen it…splashy adds in the paper, neon starburst signs in store windows touting huge discounts, flashy spam email offering bargain prices on printer cartridges, some guy on tv yelling at the screen that you just have to try Shamwow! And some people actually call this marketing or maybe advertising. Most of us simply call it annoying.

Let’s be clear, this is not marketing. So what is marketing? According to the American Marketing Association (AMA) “Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” That definition works, but I personally like how Allen Weiss at Marketing Profs defines it, “Marketing is, in fact, the analysis of customers, competitors, and a company, combining this understanding into an overall understanding of what segments exist, deciding on targeting the most profitable segments, positioning your products, and then doing what’s necessary to deliver on that positioning.”

The key really is finding the most desirable segments of the your market and positioning your product or service in a way that that segment finds appealing. Making pretty brochures and websites is fun, but ultimately its about revenue and profit.

Keeping vs. getting

Everyone knows that keeping customers is cheaper than getting customers. I would also argue that keeping customers is more important for a healthy company than getting new customers. Of course both are important, but if you don’t keep the one’s you have then you are spinning your wheels and spending more time and money operating your business. So let me ask you this, how much of your marketing effort is geared towards keeping and how much is geared towards getting? I would venture to guess that the keeping does not get as much attention as it should.

If you are like most companies, you focus most of your marketing efforts on getting. After all, there is nothing more exciting that getting that first purchase from a new customer. But at what cost? Your current customers are your best marketing tool. A concerted effort in keeping them and making them happy will grow your company exponentially over time.

Getting new customers is important, but make sure your marketing efforts are balanced properly between keeping and getting. The health of your company relies on it.

Marketing Key #11 of 13

Marketing Key #11 – A service cannot be returned like a product can.

This is something that is often forgotten and the reason that trust is so important. People who are buying a service are agreeing to pay for it before they even gain the benefits of the service. And if they don’t like the service they are unable to return it for a replacement. They are simply stuck without the service and will need to find someone else who can provide it to them. As a result it is very important to stay in close contact with a new customer to make sure their needs are being met on every level.