Normally I am happy with my bank. They provide an efficient service, whether online, on the phone or by way of weekly texts showing my balance.
This week, however, I have not been so impressed.
I was on the school run when I received a text. Since my curiosity was greater than my fear of being caught, I risked an illicit glance at the message at the next set of traffic lights. I saw a bundle of numbers, beginning with 25 and ending with DR. Mystified, I looked again. It stated I was £25,742 overdrawn. I stalled the car.
Before anyone thinks the contrary, this is not normal behaviour on my account, which rarely reaches a four figure sum. I am almost never overdrawn. Something was up.
I raced back home and went online. Sure enough, there were three huge amounts debited to my account that day. I called the bank. They calmly assured me that those debits had been marked as fraudulent and would be re-credited to me.
So, I am not out of pocket and my account is functioning in its normal, unspectacular way. But, if they knew about the fraud, why did they let the text go skimming through the ether to hit me between the eyes at the lights? Why don’t they have an automatic alert that requires someone to call and check what’s happening?
However impressive the technology is, real customer service requires the human touch.
Well, we’re nearly there. The team has been working flat out to meet our content deadline of 31 March and it looks like we’re going to make it.
Producing 100 web pages of practical, high quality, search engine optimised copy and sourcing some 300 online tools and other resources in less than three months is no mean feat.
Loading the content will start in earnest on 1 April (who chose that date?!), before we launch on 20 April. But that’s just the start. Post-launch, our challenge is to create a constantly evolving, dynamic and truly interactive site. You can help us to make it happen.
We want small business owners to use the Marketing Donut regularly, so we need to ensure a fresh stream of new material and ongoing dialogue. But this doesn’t mean throwing anything and everything related to marketing up there. Continually, we ask ourselves: ‘Is this really relevant to SMEs?’ and ‘Is it practical?’
If it’s textbook marketing theory you’re after, best go elsewhere. The aim of the Marketing Donut is to tell busy SME owner-managers what they need to know, when they need to know it. Hopefully, this will help them overcome their challenges quickly and effectively.
Your feedback is vital to the success of the site, so please let us know what you think on 20 April.
Let me explain...
What I am talking about here is customer segmentation, and identifying the 'best' customers for your business.
The 80:20 rule comes into play very often when analysing customers — where it's typical to find 80% of your profit coming from 20% of your customers. This is WHY all customers are not created equal — some of them make you a lot more profit!
You should never just want ‘more customers’; you should always be looking for more of the RIGHT customers. As soon as you know in business who your 'best' customers are, you can start to be strategic in your Marketing (and usually by 'best' we're talking most profitable customers — but it can be other measures).
And remember it is the LIFETIME VALUE of customers that is important in analysing your customer base i.e. how much profit you will make from a customer over the ‘lifetime’ that they buy from you, and not just the first or one-off purchase that they make.
So once you've found out who your best customers are, what do you do?
Easy — you find more of them. If you know who they are, what they buy, how they buy, and what they pay, you can put yourself in media where they are. And if you don't know the answers to these questions, now is the time to ask your customers and find out the answers.
Remember you don't just want 'more customers’; you want more of your 'best customers'.
As a boy, I would try to work out cycling round-trips that were all downhill. Needless to say, it was a complete waste of time and effort. And many of our marketing responses to recession are in exactly the same spirit. Marketers have flooded the channels with ‘recession-beating’ deals, as if this government-humbling downturn could somehow be beaten. Agencies present the recipe for ‘marketing in a recession’, which turns out to be pretty much the same as the one for marketing in a boom, but a bit smaller. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they. We have an innate longing for growth, creation and gain. But to mature, we have to deal with the flip side – decline, destruction and loss. If we can’t accept that ‘all things must pass’, we’ll end up with what Buddhists call dukkha – a pervasive sense of ‘unsatisfactoriness’. I’m not saying that the recession is a breeze. Nor am I laughing off the very real suffering it’s causing. I’m simply making the case for ‘skiing downhill’ by taking the opportunities that this unprecedented period presents, instead of trying to fight it or wish it away. It’s a bad time to make money. But it could be a great time to make friends. B2B marketing that promises customers a useful working relationship, instead of trying to persuade them to spend, may have a better chance of success. There’s nothing wrong with cutting prices, but don’t patronise customers by taking about ‘beating’ the recession. They’re not stupid, nor will they buy just because something is cheap. Stay competitive, but keep communicating the value you offer too – even if people aren’t buying. Companies who do this successfully are the ones who emerge from recession with a dormant but loyal customer base ready to be reactivated. As a copywriter, I’d make a strong case for writing as a key recession-marketing tool. Instead of splurging on media exposure, why not pick up a pen and quietly revisit your value proposition in the light of the new economic reality. You might turn up some great new marketing angles – or even ideas for more far-reaching changes that could help you go with the flow instead of wasting your energy swimming against the tide.
This is my first time writing for the Marketing Donut, and truth be told, I was more than a little anxious as I approached this task. It’s not that I’m a stranger to writing, after all I was a journalist for something like 10 years before PR got its hooks into me in 2001. No, it wasn’t that.
The thing that weighed on my mind was the suggestion that I should write about the new rules of engagement for PR in this brave new 2.0 world. That’s a bigger topic than it might at first seem and many people have expounded opinions on it.
This isn’t the time or place to go into an exploration of how PR works – or has worked traditionally – nor am I entirely comfortable with dividing PR into old and new, using Twitter, blogging and Facebook as the yardstick for such distinctions. But it serves a purpose as far as this exercise is concerned.
Perhaps the greatest point of difference between the old and the new in PR terms is the way in which you communicate your message. It is still the case that media relations forms a hugely important part of PR – identify the journalists you need to win over and then work on giving them the materials they need to produce stories that present you in a favourable light.
While this is still important there’s now a lot more to it all. Blogs and forums in particular have become avenues for dialogue with audiences, as well as platforms from which your critics can berate you in public. Your customers, partners, and competitors will talk to you and about you online and will swap ideas and anecdotes about you. If you’re savvy you’ll join in.
To the novice, this is daunting stuff. And I have it on good authority that it causes sleepless nights to the heads of marketing at some of the world’s biggest brands.
Turning all of this to your advantage is not as hard as it might seem. Use your own blog to interact with others, set up an online forum, use Twitter to see what topics are of interest to the people you want to influence, track your competitors’ social media presence and see what you can learn from it.
In fact, learning from others’ experiences is one of the greatest and most immediate benefits of getting on the social media train – after all there are so many people out there willing (nay, desperate) to share their opinions with you.
It seems a simple concept – treat your customers with respect and they are more likely to feel good about you. And for many businesses, their relationship with their customers is integral to their success.
However, while seeking a house to rent with three friends recently, I realised that some letting agents (but not all) do not pay attention to their customer service, no doubt because house-hunting is for the majority of people a once-a-year activity at the most. Perhaps they ought to realise that although that customer is unlikely to need an estate agent again in the near future, people talk, and the people they talk to are potential new customers. By displaying some simple good manners and good ethics, therefore, they might just win another customer via word of mouth recommendation, and if they are struggling that customer might be the one they need to stop them going under.
Meanwhile, if you are selling something the customer will want or need more frequently you will probably be aware that it is crucial to convey to the customer how much you value them to ensure that they return. Small businesses are often more directly customer-facing than large companies, and you should use that personal relationship to your advantage.
It might seem trivial, but honesty, efficiency and a friendly demeanour will all help to convince them that you are the business from which they will buy the same product or service the next time they need it. If the customer sees you as trustworthy, it will be easier to sell them the benefits of what you offer and to keep them hooked.
The frosty letting agents who rudely let us down the day before signing our contract are now known in at least our four workplaces as unreliable. In contrast, the straight-talking one or two that listened closely to our requirements, tracked down suitable properties for us, stuck to their agreed fees, and did not expect us to bankrupt ourselves for the sake of a period mantelpiece, are the ones that I will recommend to friends embarking on the task of finding their own new homes.
So, whether you offer a one-sale item or service, or your business relies entirely on repeat sales, customer service is not something to be pushed aside like another stack of unwelcome paperwork. Particularly in the current environment, it pays to go that extra mile.