The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

From Positive to Negative Word of Mouth (WOM) in 10 Minutes on a Saturday Morning, Windsor Cleaners vs. Jiffy Lube


Positive and Negative Word of Mouth (WOM)Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) is undeniably powerful. I’ve written about the power of WOM in the past (Boar's Head, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc.) and I still believe that organic word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to grow your business. And that's especially true for small businesses. Well, a few weeks ago I was able to see an example of how one business could foster positive WOM and then how another company could generate negative WOM, and all in 10 minutes on a Saturday morning. Yes, I keep a keen eye out for things like this, but it was amazing to see how I could feel so good about one company and then so bad about another in such as short period of time! After I got home that Saturday morning, I started to think about my two experiences and wanted to share them here. I’ll break down both experiences and then give you some questions to think about regarding your own company or business.

Experience 1: Fostering Positive WOM
I’ve been going to Windsor Cleaners in Princeton, NJ for a number of years now. I'll start with some some basic reasons why I go there. First, they provide an outstanding service. I know, a novel idea, right? Providing a great product or service is obviously the foundation for generating positive WOM. Next, they provide excellent customer service. Third, they go the proverbial extra mile for their customers (which is more than just providing excellent customer service and you'll read more about this below). So for me, Windsor Cleaners is starting with a solid foundation. In all the years I’ve been taking my clothes there, I have never left unhappy. In addition, they know me as soon as I walk in the door, entering my account number in their system without me having to say a single digit. I like that. I also typically bring my kids with me when dropping off my clothes, and the employees at Windsor Cleaners are always great with them. And you can tell it’s genuine, and not the BS, “oh how cute” that you hear from some people. So in a nutshell, they provide a great dry cleaning service and provide excellent customer service. Now for my Saturday morning story.

A few weeks ago, I walked in holding my 2 year old son in one arm, a pile of clothes in another arm, and I was in a hurry. I also brought in one of my winter jackets during this drop off, and I quickly checked my pockets to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. I received my ticket, said goodbye and was on my way. I ended up taking my son to another store in the same shopping center as Windsor Cleaners. So I’m on line in the store and someone taps my shoulder. It’s one of the women from Windsor Cleaners holding my $225 pair of sunglasses. I must have left them in my coat. The woman from Windsor Cleaners tracked me down (without knowing where I was going) to make sure I had my sunglasses. That’s awesome. How easy would it be for her to just put them aside and wait for me to come in next week? Or worse, how easy would it be for someone to just take them, right? The people at Windsor Cleaners never would, but I can’t say that for everyone in this world… This was a great example of a small business going the extra mile and fostering positive word of mouth.

The Positive Impact on Windsor Cleaners
In my opinion, Windsor Cleaners is doing everything right as a small business. They provide an excellent dry cleaning service, they are nice to their customers, their employees seem happy, and they go the extra mile for their customers. Why wouldn’t you like them?? By the way, they aren’t the least expensive dry cleaning business in my area. But I don’t care. It would take a lot to get me to stop going to Windsor Cleaners… And as I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a WOM machine. If I like something, you can’t shut me up about it. I blog about it, tell people at work, tell my friends and family, etc. So, you bet I tell people about Windsor Cleaners. It’s easy… I want them to succeed.

--Next Stop, Jiffy Lube For An Oil Change (Just 5 minutes down the road.)--

Experience 2: Creating Negative Word of Mouth
I pulled into Jiffy Lube to simply get a fast oil change and be on my way. I got out of my car and entered the building, and then waited for someone to check my car. It wasn’t long before I heard, “Mr. Gabe, please follow me.” and that’s when my stomach turned… I’ll stop for a second and ask you if you already know what I’m referring to? I bet some of you do… Actually, I know some of you do (more on that soon).

Are you ready for a Jiffy sales pitch?
And the game begins… I’m holding my 2 year old son and I follow the person from Jiffy Lube out to my car. Now I’m in front of a monitor in the middle of Jiffy Lube’s garage. How nice. :) In a matter of seconds, you are being pitched all sorts of products and services for your car, from the infamous air filter, maybe a cabin filter, something about your fuel injectors, and then some type of engine flush. Really?? First of all, if I was to have something like that done, it probably wouldn’t be at Jiffy Lube. They rush you through the process, hoping for the uncomfortable, “ok, I guess so”. They pull out your air filter to show you how “dirty” it is, and push you just hard enough that you feel like you’re being swindled. I hate that feeling, and I hate their process. They point to the monitor and show you some data about how your car hasn’t gotten this in six months or how you haven’t done that in one year. And of course they don’t tell you pricing while taking you through all that’s wrong with your vehicle. You actually have to ask for pricing (if you’re even lucky enough to retain half of what they threw your way.) I hear this pitch every time I get my oil changed, and to be honest, I'm tired of it.

Forcing Customers Through This Process Is Not Good For Jiffy Lube…
The process I just explained above is where Jiffy Lube goes wrong. I don’t feel confident that I need most of what they are pitching. Do I need some of it? Probably so, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t trust them. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a process that makes me feel so negative, so quickly. Then you’re forced into the awkward situation of declining what they just rattled off, and it’s even a little embarrassing. I can’t imagine that anyone at Jiffy Lube would want it to go down this way. Do you?

Breaking This Down Marketing-Wise
Does Jiffy Lube provide a good oil change service? I think so. I’ve never really had a problem. Their pricing is ok and their employees are generally nice. But, I don’t get a good feeling about going to Jiffy Lube. I think it all comes down to the cheesy sales pitch you get every time you bring your car in… Does anyone in marketing at Jiffy Lube understand how this impacts their brand? I don’t feel loyal to Jiffy Lube. Actually, I could go somewhere else for an oil change 3000 miles from now and not even give it a second thought. By the way, if you’re thinking that an additional air filter can’t generate a lot of revenue, you’re wrong. Start doing the math based on how many locations they have any how many estimated customers get oil changes each day. It sure adds up, but at what long term cost to the company? Jiffy Lube might have generated an extra $20 this time, but what if they lose my business forever? That would be thousands of dollars that Jiffy Lube would stand to lose (and just from one customer).

So Jiffy Lube, please stop the madness. Go visit your locations and see what goes on. I’ll guarantee that you’ll want to change how the process works. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make sure people have the right information and get the right products or services, but there has to be a better way to do it without making people feel like they are being ripped off. Actually, go to Windsor Cleaners and see how they treat their customers. :)

The Power of the Web Tells Me That…
I’m not the only one that feels this way. I found out that many others feel the same exact way. I tweeted about my last experience on Twitter and received some quick replies and direct messages from others that don’t like the process either. It’s funny, I didn’t mention what was pitched and their messages all revolved around the air filter sales pitch! I found that interesting…so I started doing some Google searches. That’s when I found this, this, and this. Oh yeah, and this, this, and this. Uh, an entire site dedicated to Jiffy Lube problems and it ranks #1 for jiffy lube air filter? (see screenshot below) And there were dozens of more listings too. By the way, enter Jiffy Lube Air Filter in Google Blog Search. You’ll find some interesting stories.

Search for Jiffy Lube Air Filter on Google

Let me tell you, if I worked at Jiffy Lube, this would be one of the first things I fixed. They seriously need a Customer Service Czar, and now. Someone who comes in with guns blazing and fixes this problem. The power of WOM is undeniable, but the fact that Jiffy Lube has a reputation management problem is also undeniable. It actually makes me wonder what’s getting in the way of fixing the problem… So, the next time you hear a pitch for an air filter at Jiffy Lube, think twice. Maybe you need it, but maybe you don’t.

Think About Your Business…
Is there any part of your business that actually annoys your customers? Do you help generate negative word of mouth? Take a hard look at all your customer touch points, ask your customers for real feedback, and change anything that can be generating negative word of mouth NOW.
So I think it's clear that Jiffy Lube can learn a lot from Windsor Cleaners about customer service. But more importantly, how much can you learn from them?

GG

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Best Buy In Store Pickup 2, Would the Sequel Be Better than the Original (for Once)


Best Buy In Store Pickup, The Second ChanceI’m a nice guy. Really, I’m not kidding… I don’t want to complain about companies, products or services. Actually, I love coming across a product or service that I like and that I believe in. And, I’m the type of person to tell everyone I know. I’m definitely a word of mouth marketing machine for the products and companies I like. It’s just in my blood. So, when I tried Best Buy In Store Pickup in 2006 (on a tight deadline), and the service bombed on me, you could imagine my frustration. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, it wasted my time, and as a result, I let the world know about it on my blog. As I stated in 2006, great concept, poor execution. But again, I’m a nice guy. I believe in second chances, and this is a post about the second chance I gave Best Buy this past weekend. My hope was that Best Buy fixed the flawed In Store Pickup system that wasted my time in 2006 and pushed me to write about my negative experience. Let’s start at the beginning with a brief description of what frustrated me in 2006.

My Problems with the Original
In 2006, I logged onto the site, found the products I needed, chose “in store pickup”, and was shown that it was in stock at the store in Princeton. Then, when I received my two confirmation emails, I was told that the products weren’t in stock. What?? So, I had to log back on and order a different product, again seeing that it was in stock. But was it? The system said the same thing last time, only to send me an email notifying me that the product wasn’t in stock… I took the chance, it ended up being in stock, and I was off to Best Buy to pick up my order. But I wasted time, wasn’t confident in the process, was frustrated, and probably could have just run out to the store from the beginning! It amazed me that a company like Best Buy didn’t have an integrated system for knowing if something was really in stock… That’s why I wrote the first post. But this post is about the sequel, the second chance I gave Best Buy. So grab your popcorn and soda and let’s find out how the sequel went.

It Doesn’t Happen Often, But the Sequel Beat the Original
I found myself in a similar buying situation last week, needing to order some products, but short on time. That’s the moment I thought I would give Best Buy a second chance. I logged onto the site, found the products I needed, chose “In Store Pickup”, quickly checked if the product was in stock in Princeton, and finalized my order. Then I eagerly awaited the two confirmation emails to see if the products were actually in stock, hoping the systems were integrated a little better than 2006… Within 20-30 minutes, I received my confirmation emails and everything was in stock. Great job Best Buy. The system worked and you saved me time. It seems like you might have improved your system for checking whether or not a product is actually in stock. The key words being “I think”… I didn’t really know that for sure and maybe I was just lucky this time. So, I headed off to pick up my products at the Princeton location, armed with my email receipt and my ID.

A Best Buy Employee Shed Some Light on In Store Pickup
In my original Best Buy In Store Pickup experience, the “In Store” part was outstanding. It was fast, efficient, and if the systems were better integrated, I could have seen using the service more often. This time was pretty similar. It was a little more crowded, but overall, it was still pretty efficient. I showed my receipt and the credit card I used to pay for the items, and picked up the products I had purchased. Again, I was happy with the service this time.

Then it hit me, let me ask the employee at the In Store Pickup desk more about the service. Maybe there’s a good reason for how they determine if something is in stock. The man helping me seemed very knowledgeable about the process, so I peppered him with questions. My first question was about the notification on the site that the product was in stock. He said, “not so fast…” The system is linked with the store, but there are several variables that could throw off the actual number. Theft was the first thing he brought up (which by the way he emphasized it, makes me think it’s a bigger problem than most people know.). He also brought up bad SKU’s or human error when entering what’s in stock at the store location. If that happened, then the system wouldn’t know if the number entered is correct or not. So, his advice was simple. If the site shows more than 5 items in stock, you’re probably good to go. That leaves some buffer for theft or human error. If the site shows 1-2 items in stock, be careful and wait for the second confirmation email, which will tell you if it’s really in stock. And by the way, Best Buy physically has an employee go and check if it’s in stock once the purchase is made on the website. That’s why it can take up to 45 minutes to receive the second confirmation email. I thanked the employee for helping me and for taking the time to explain what goes on behind the scenes with In Store Pickup. Then I left with my products.

Will There be a Trilogy? I Think So.
Was my first experience negative? Absolutely, but I didn’t fully understand the process at that point. I can argue that as a consumer, I shouldn’t have to understand the process, but putting my marketing hat on for a minute, I must take that into account. Their online system cannot determine theft or human error, at least at this point in time. I understand that and I now have a newfound appreciation for what they are trying to accomplish with In Store Pickup. Actually, I have an idea for Best Buy. Take what the employee told me and add it to the FAQ for In Store Pickup on the website. Then whenever someone chooses In Store Pickup, show that link prominently in their cart (with more than a text link that’s currently there). I’m telling you, it will alleviate a lot of frustration and confusion. Consider that my free Internet Marketing advice for the day. ;-)

Have any of you used Best Buy In Store Pickup? What were your experiences like? I’m eager to know.

GG

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Twitter For Business, 4 Things You Should Be Using Twitter For Today to Help Your Business


Using Twitter to connect with your customers.I’m a big fan of Twitter, the microblogging service that has become ridiculously popular over the past year or two. Whenever I tell someone about Twitter, I typically get a strange look. That’s especially true if I started explaining how I just “tweeted” something. A few chuckles usually follow and then I typically receive my first question, “So, what is Twitter?” After explaining what the service is (and what it isn’t), I usually get the next question, “Well, how can I use Twitter for my business?” Seriously, this happens all the time…it’s definitely a trend. Enough of a trend that I was thinking about recording my response on my Blackberry and then just hitting play when needed. ;-)

I believe Twitter is a powerful tool for connecting with customers (and prospective customers) on several levels. So, after hearing the questions I listed above too many times, I thought it would be smart (and helpful) to write this post. Now, if you don’t think that Twitter can help your business (whether you are a large or small business), then please read on. I’ll provide 4 ways you should be using Twitter today (yes, today) to help your business.

Defining Microblogging, Twitter and Your Followers
Let’s start with a few definitions. Twitter is a microblogging service that enables you to send short messages (140 characters or less) via SMS, IM, Email, and even via applications that were developed for Twitter (by third parties). Most of you who have heard of Twitter probably think of SMS (or Text Messaging), since that’s the communication mechanism that’s commonly connected with Twitter, so to speak. When you sign up for the service, you can start “following” others, and they in turn, can start “following” you. When you follow someone, you receive their “tweets”, which are their short messages, which will show up in your timeline. You can also choose to have those messages sent to your mobile phone via SMS. When people follow you, they are choosing to receive your “tweets”, or messages. Sounds simple, right? It definitely is simple from that standpoint, but the power of Twitter is in how you use it.

4 Things You Can Use Twitter For Today to Enhance Your Business
And when I say “today”, I mean today. You should sign up and get moving. If you follow the four bullets listed below, I’m confident you’ll see the power of Twitter. You just need to give it a try.

1. Connect with your followers and customers, and provide VALUE to them.
Twitter provides a powerful way to keep in touch with your customers. Think about it. You can start to promote your Twitter account in all your communications, in your email signature, on your cards, on your blog, your website, etc. to start to build up your followers. Some of your customers are going to dig Twitter because they want direct and fast contact with someone at your company. Twitter provides an unbelievable way for your customers to get in touch with you, and for you to get back in touch with them. For example, let’s say you have a new product launch. You can send a series of tweets out to your group of followers. You might even have some of your followers retweet your original message, which can really help get the word out. Are you expecting a service outage as part of an upgrade? Send a tweet to your customers letting them know that the service will be down for a few hours. Think about how many calls you will save your customer service center. Again, many of your followers will have SMS turned on, which means they will get your message on their mobile phone (wherever they are), versus just email…

I’m also a big fan of educating your customers on a regular basis. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be about self promotion (completely). It could be more about your industry. For example, send tweets to your followers about industry news, cool websites you find, helpful blog posts, new tools that launch, etc. You can stay in front of your customers by providing valuable content that actually helps them. It’s a win win. So after you sign up for Twitter, launch a quick campaign for getting your customers to follow you. Explain the benefits to them and then point them to Twitter. Gain your following quickly.

2. Twitter for Customer Service (TFCS)
This is similar to the first bullet point, but more from a customer service angle. Using Twitter, you have the ability to handle customer service issues in near real time. I’ve seen quite a few tweets from people who are upset about a product or service WHILE THEY ARE USING IT. Imagine that this was your product or service. You might have the ability to resolve an issue before it gets worse…and before they tweet more…or blog about it…and maybe, yes maybe, they become loyal customers since you handled their situation so promptly. How about questions about your service? I have seen (and been part of), questions about products or services. For example, “Which smartphone do you like best?” “Which HDTV do you guys recommend?” or “Which vacation spot do you like better, Cabo or Hawaii and why?” These are great opportunities to learn what people are saying and you can easily join the conversation (just don’t hop in and start pitching your product). If you can provide valuable information, then feel free to get in touch with the person or group in question. This could be a great way for you to connect with many influential people in an industry.

3. Twitter and PR, Monitor Tweets and Respond Accordingly
Most PR professionals are using a number of tools to monitor chatter on the web, such as Google Alerts. Twitter should be another tool in your arsenal. I can tell you first hand how representatives of companies have gotten in touch with me based on my tweets. Some of my original messages were positive and others were not, but regardless, you can benefit as a company from monitoring these messages (and any replies). For example, looking for people buzzing about your products or services? You might find a number of people on Twitter that keep tweeting about your products. Well, get in touch with them! On the flip side, if you find a person that just hammered your product or brand, get in touch with them too. Twitter can be a great way to curb negative word of mouth. Putting a human element in the mix when someone is frustrated can be a great way to nip the problem in the bud. Maybe it was a miscommunication or that customer didn’t know about the latest upgrade or product offering. A simple Direct Message within Twitter might resolve the entire situation…and they might even tweet about the positive experience after it has been resolved. You cannot be afraid of doing this… If you are, then you won’t reap the benefits of the community. It’s similar to situations where I am talking to companies about blogging and I hear the question, “But what if we get a negative comment?” If that person is you, overcome this fear…you won’t regret it.

There are some good examples of companies using Twitter to connect with customers. For example, Omniture, Comcast, and Carnival Cruise Lines. I hope to see many more companies follow their lead.

4. Connect with others in your industry.
I have met some incredible people from all over the world using Twitter, and I can honestly say that I never would have met them without using the service. Actually, it’s really funny when you connect with someone close to your location and you never knew they were there! That has also happened to me a few times. It’s pretty easy in Twitter to find like minded people. You can use third party tools to search through tweets to find people talking about specific industries, products, services, brands, etc. Once you find their profile, you can easily start following them, and then you can check out their followers. Chances are you’ll find a number of additional people to follow in a relatively short period of time. Then, those people might start following you.

Now don’t stop there… You should join the conversation and communicate with others (yes, that means 2 way communication). If you do join the conversation (and I recommend you do versus sitting there reading tweets), then you can brainstorm, get answers, share ideas, and collaborate all via Twitter. Heck, you might find new partners, business opportunities, and ways to market…all via microblogging! I bet you never thought that would happen. :)

So there you have it. 4 ways to use Twitter today to enhance your business. Is it time consuming? You bet. Will it take a little time to get used to? Absolutely. Will it also take time to build a following? Definitely. But, in the end my hope is that you will come back to this post and comment about how happy you are that you took my advice! ;-) It’s all about execution, and now you need to take action. If you are still unsure, feel free to provide your questions below (or just get in touch with me). And, don’t forget to follow me on twitter. Hey, I can be your first “follow”. :)

Tweet Tweet

GG

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Monday, April 21, 2008

E-Commerce Customer Reviews, Common Pitfalls That Can Impact Sales


Customer Reviews and e-Commerce ImpactIf you run an e-commerce website, then chances are you’re fully aware of how ratings and reviews can impact sales. I think everyone agrees that enabling customers to review products is a powerful way to leverage user-generated content to improve the overall buying experience for visitors. That said, what constitutes a quality review, what are prospective customers looking for in a review, and how can the various types of reviews impact conversion? Not all reviews are created equal, so if you are thinking about implementing reviews on your website, I've listed four pitfalls below to watch out for. You might be able to plan your implementation with these in mind!

When Are Reviews Necessary?
Before I list the pitfalls, I also wanted to quickly explain when reviews are beneficial to prospective customers and when they aren’t necessary. I don’t really need to read a review for GAP jeans or a Banana Republic belt or a Canon calculator. We all know they are high quality and they are fairly simple items. In my opinion, it comes down to price, safety, and how a product impacts your life. Lesser known brands from smaller companies might require reviews from consumers versus bigger, well known brands. In addition, how the product will impact your life is an important factor for reviews. For example, you would probably want to read reviews for infant car seats, a high end camcorder, or an expensive piece of furniture. Price, safety, and how that product impacts your life will dictate if reviews are necessary. Again, just my opinion.

Without further ado, some pitfalls of e-commerce reviews include:

1. When there are no reviews!
If visitors are expecting to find reviews and they can’t find any for the product they are looking for, then there’s a chance they will lose confidence during the purchase process and move on. That's especially true if you boast about your website reviews! Even the slightest second thought can be a conversion killer. If you are having trouble gaining reviews from customers, then I highly recommend launching a campaign to drive more reviews. Leverage your in-house email list and get people back to your site to review the products they purchased. Heck, give them an incentive…maybe 15-20% off their next purchase in exchange for a review. Having no reviews can impact more than sales for the product at hand, it could be interpreted by visitors that you don’t have enough volume or customers to generate reviews. Again, not a good thing when someone is ready to buy from you…

2. Who is actually writing the review?
Let’s face it, customers aren’t stupid. They want to read reviews from similar people who are in similar situations. For example, anonymous reviews are close to worthless in my opinion. Depending on what I’m buying, I want to hear from someone in a similar situation (who has a name). I don’t need to know them obviously, but I want to know that it’s from a somewhat quality source. For example, whenever I buy a tech book (like a programming book), I want to hear from other developers. I have an entire bookcase full of programming books and not all were written perfectly, to say the least… So, something like, “I’ve been programming for 13 years and this book was outstanding. The chapters started with a solid foundation, then moved to basic coding examples, and then real-world coding projects. The samples always worked (don’t laugh, many programming books come with code examples that don’t work) and the book is a great reference for when I get stuck.” A review like that would get my attention. Last year, I wanted to read reviews when I was looking for a new golf driver. I definitely wanted to hear from golfers in my skill range. Hearing from a scratch golfer wouldn’t be helpful, nor would hearing from a beginner. Solid reviews helped build confidence and got me closer to the sale… Now, I still needed to blast a few golf balls at the range before buying the club! You get my point.

3. Mixed Reviews (Great reviews mixed with poor reviews).
Products that have mixed reviews will tend to give customers less confidence in moving forward with a purchase. It makes sense, right? How can there be 5 fantastic reviews and 5 horrible reviews? That’s a definite red flag for me (and others too). I wouldn’t take a risk on buying something online that half the reviewers thought was a waste of money. Would you? I’m not referring to reviews that rate a product as mediocre. I’m referring to those weird set of reviews where some people loved the item and others hated the item. Seems fishy, doesn’t it? I always move on… It also leads me to think that there’s a fake review or two in the mix… Read on. ;-)

4. Fake Reviews
I think we’ve all come across these, right? (probably written as anonymous)? It’s funny, most people can’t write a positive review if they are forced to. Don’t believe me? Go ahead…try and write a positive review for something that you don’t really like or that’s your own product. I will guarantee you that it sounds obvious. ;-) If I come across a fake review, there had better be a real one for that product…or there’s a good chance I’m moving on. My hope is that you can pick out the fake reviews, and if you can’t, then hopefully there are plenty of other reviews for the item at hand.

So there you have it, four pitfalls when offering customer reviews on your website. I definitely believe reviews are a great feature to add on your e-commerce site, but I think you should implement them with a good understanding of the types of reviews out there and how they can impact conversion, user experience, and return buyers. My hope is that you will keep these pitfalls in mind and try to form strategies to overcome them. For example, launching campaigns to increase reviews, dealing with anonymous reviews, tracking the impact of reviews, etc. When you break it down, reviews can help your customers make informed decisions, and also help you determine the right products to sell on your website. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go review the Tonka Truck I just bought my son. ;-)

GG

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Google SMS and More Mobile Marketing Ideas


Google SMS, Texting Google for Quick AnswersLast week I wrote about short code marketing and using text messaging for mobile marketing campaigns. Last year (around this time), I wrote about Goog 411, Google’s free 411 service that returns results based on its local listings. So today I figured I would combine the two concepts and write about Google SMS, Google’s way of answering your search queries on your mobile device. The short code is 466543, or “Google” on most devices. If you are unfamiliar with short codes, please check out my last post (see link above).

What it is Google SMS and What are the Benefits?
Some of you might be saying, “Why wouldn’t I just browse to Google on my mobile web device and enter my search??” Well, SMS is much faster (at least for now). Texting a quick search query using SMS, with the ability to save that query for future text messages, is a great way to get fast answers to your questions.

What types of searches can you text to Google?
You can see a quick list on the Google SMS site, but here are a few possibilities to get you thinking… How about checking the weather, the score of the Yankees game, defining a word, a stock quote, product prices, directions, flight information, currency conversions, etc. These are just a few of the searches that you can text to Google and I’m confident you are starting to see the value of Google SMS… The problem is that many people don’t even know about it. Don’t believe me? Lean over and ask your coworker now if he or she knows about Google SMS. {Glenn waiting.......OK, you're back} I bet you got a confused reaction from them, right?

To text your search to Google SMS, simple enter the search feature and then what you are searching for, like:

weather pennington, nj
score Yankees
movies 08540
price blackberry curve 8310

Cool, right? And for those of you wondering how much faster it is to text a search versus browsing the mobile web, here’s a quick test on my Blackberry Curve 8310. I’ll look up the price of a Canon Powershot G9:

Browsing the Mobile Web:
Loading browser…
Finding Google….
Waiting for data…
Yawn…
SERP returned…
Checking listings….
Finding solid listing and price for G9
Total Time: 1:25

Using Google SMS:
Texting “price canon powershot g9” to 46653
Price returned via SMS in 8 seconds
Total Time: 16 seconds

Convinced this is a smart way to go? :)

Why this is important to you as a marketer…
Because you don’t have to be Google to achieve the same results for your customers and potential customers. You can do this for your business. Think about it…you can use text messaging to quickly answer questions, no matter what line business you are in. And, the more answers you provide, the more customers and prospective customers you can make happy. The more people you make happy, the more they will talk about your business (can you say WOM)? The more they talk about you, the more business you can acquire. The more business you can gain, the more money you can generate. Do I need to keep going here?

Some SMS marketing examples:
Let’s say you run an accounting firm targeting small businesses and you want utilize SMS marketing. Maybe you can answer basic accounting questions that you know small businesses always have via your short code. i.e. text “FICA” or “1099” to {your short code here}. Help enough small businesses and maybe you build new relationships along with new clients. Do you own a car dealership? Maybe you can answer questions about pricing or features for the latest models. Are you an electronics retailer? Maybe you’ll answer top product questions. i.e. text “SPECS for IPOD Nano” to {enter your short code here}. Again, the possibilities are endless. I explained some other uses for short codes in my last post, but I’m just focusing on the search and answer model here… Do you own a chain of weight loss centers? Provide the number of calories for various products or meals. i.e. text “calories slice of pizza” to {enter your short code here}. You get the idea!

Go ahead, stir up mobile marketing at your company!
I wanted to write this post to keep mobile on your mind after my last post… (Hey “Mobile on My Mind”… sounds like a new Carrie Underwood song…) I truly believe mobile marketing will be huge and it’s basically an untapped channel right now. Heck, there are short codes just waiting to be purchased…and you would be shocked to see how many big brands are not involved yet. It would be the equivalent of Coke not being interested in coke.com 10-15 years ago. BTW, I’ll beat you to the punch…Coke already owns the short code for COKE. They are on top of it! Are you? :)

GG

PS Don’t forget to test out my short code…just text IMD to 23907 to sign up for mobile alerts when I update my blog. You can always opt out, but it’s a cool way to see how this works!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Viral Marketing Campaigns, Important Elements to Consider to Enhance Campaign Effectiveness


Viral Marketing Effectiveness, Important Elements to ConsiderViral Marketing is a hot topic, especially since the web is an incredible catalyst for getting the word out about something. Depending on your business, viral marketing can be a powerful way to drive exposure, traffic, and sales. You can get your brand in front of thousands of people in a relatively short amount of time. By the way, I’m not referring to organic Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) or Buzz Marketing. If you want to get technical, I’m referring to Amplified WOM, or an online marketing campaign with a goal of taking your message viral, spreading it across the web like wildfire, exposing your brand on a grand level, and hopefully turning it into revenue down the line. Don't worry, I explain a few examples below. You don’t have to be a large company to utilize viral marketing. You just need to be creative and develop ideas that leverage the viral nature of the web to achieve your goals… Let’s take a look at what I believe to be some important elements to consider while developing your viral marketing campaign.

Concept Development, Make Sure It’s Fun, Memorable, and That It Has a Hook
During your brainstorming, if you read a concept and remotely think it won’t be fun, inspiring, or intriguing enough, then throw the idea away. The bar is constantly being raised, so you need to ensure people will want to take part. If it just sounds ok, then it’s probably worse. If you get goosebumps while reading it, then you’re on to something. I use this test often while mapping out creative strategies….if it doesn’t give me chills while reading it, then it’s not good enough, period.

Here’s an interesting example of a viral campaign: Weight Watchers recently hired FaintStarlite, a popular video blogger to help promote their "Stop Dieting, Start Living" campaign. There’s a myspace page for the campaign and FaintStarlite vlogs away… She is asking others to post about their diet experiences, their Weight Watchers journey, and talks about her own experiences. Right now, her WW myspace page has over 6300 friends and 430 comments. Reading through the comments, you can see the campaign seems to be resonating. Women (and some men) are talking about dieting, when they joined Weight Watchers, laughing about the craziest diets they have tried, etc. This is a good example of tailoring the campaign to your target audience. Actually, I'd love to hear from FaintStarlite about how the campaign is going from her perspective.

Another good example was the Hammer and Coop viral campaign by Mini Cooper. I won’t go into all the details, but it has ultra-high production value, it's extremely funny, and I spent 15-20 minutes there before I even realized it! Good concept, excellent creative, and got me talking about the campaign…

A Common Question I Hear:
“How controversial or extreme should we make our viral marketing campaign?” I’m a big fan of humor. It’s a great way to generate a viral effect. Think of the CareerBuilder monkey tv commercials, which spurred the CareerBuilder viral campaign "Monkey Mail". It’s a serious subject (your career), but they really took a light angle by using the monkeys… If you can weave humor into a sound marketing concept for your viral campaign, then you are off to a great start. I’m not saying that controversial campaigns don’t generate buzz…but at what price? And by the way, you can shock people with humor and not leave them writhing in their seats… Another option is taking real world experiences and using them as the basis for your campaign. Let your actual customers talk… Let the true stories of helping customers resonate with your target audience. It’s not funny or shocking, but depending on your customer stories, it could generate a lot of viral activity.

Interactivity, Participation and User Generated Content (UGC)
Don’t create a 30 second spot…please. Sure, you might get some views on YouTube, but I firmly believe you need to have people interact with your campaign (and that’s not sitting and watching a 2 minute video). I think it’s a great idea to have video as part of the campaign, but not part of a one way viewing experience. There are so many ways to have people take part in your campaign, especially with web-based campaigns. For example, let’s say you are a clothing retailer and you’re launching a new line of jeans. As part of your campaign, run a contest letting customers create their own commercial for your jeans and give them some creative assets to start with. Maybe your logo, a few snapshots of models wearing the jeans, some music you have licensed for the campaign, and a few video clips from your stores. As participants create their commercials, have them upload the final video to your site, along with supporting commentary (what inspired their idea, their bios, who helped with the production, what their acceptance speech would be if their commercial won an award, etc.) Then have visitors vote on the winners… The winner gets a $2000 shopping spree on the website. It’s a great way to have people interacting with your brand, product, etc. And since they have created intriguing content for your site that others are voting for, your brand and product are now being viewed by more and more people…and maybe on other sites like YouTube, Google Video, etc. Think interactively….and not old-school television.

Giveaways, Grand Prizes, and Runners Up
If you choose to launch a contest as part of the campaign, then I cannot emphasize my next point enough. The winners should get something really, really cool that obviously fits your target market. So don’t give away a Blackberry to a retired guy living in a 55 and older community down in Florida. I'm not saying he wouldn’t like it, but he would probably enjoy a $500 restaurant gift card from Visa. Hey, I understand this crowd well since I know several snowbirds from New York. ;-) Do you target high tech customers, give away a jacked Macbook. Target moms? Give away a shopping spree at Babies R Us. You get the point. And, if you can give away your own products, even better. Then you’ll just pay the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and shipping. For example, if you sell footwear, then giving away 25 pairs of shoes doesn’t cost you the retail price, right? If you’re COGS are 30%, then you are giving away $1500 on $5000 worth of footwear. If you have products that people dig, then this is a great way to go. Keep in mind the viral nature of your campaign, though…will winning a year’s supply of paper clips excite anyone??

Brand Your Campaign and Develop a Dedicated Section of Your Website
Brand your campaign! This has several benefits, including giving people an easy way to communicate the campaign to their friends, helping with natural search, tying easily with your concept and creative, and obviously making it memorable! i.e. My friend Matt tells me about the Actober campaign by Major League Baseball, so I go to Google and enter Actober. If you’ve done your job correctly (and many don’t), your site and others referencing it should come up. If you didn’t give the campaign a name, then what would people search for?? Major League Baseball? On your website, add a directory matching the title of the campaign. i.e. www.yourwebsitename.com/yourcampaignname/

Sidebar, Do not waste those precious links!
I’ve seen campaigns generate thousands of links, which will greatly help a site’s natural search power, but then the companies shut down the campaign section or microsite after the campaign ends. NOOOO!!! “Sir, please step away from your web server…” Leverage that search power by either archiving those pages or using 301 redirects. A good link is a horrible thing to waste. ;-)

Get the Word Out, Advertise Your Viral Marketing Campaign
OK, so you have developed a great campaign, it’s a killer idea, the creative looks incredible, and you are getting goosebumps like I mentioned earlier. Now what?? You need to get the word out via a range of online marketing channels. Use your email list to stir up your base, use social media sites to communicate the campaign, advertise on targeted websites, use paid search to capture targeted visitors, and use PR to send waves across the web. Also, don’t forget to advertise on your own network of websites… I think this is sometimes overlooked. Create advertisements for key traffic areas on your own websites. Hey, there’s no ad spend! Add a footer to any email that goes out (confirmation emails to buyers, your email newsletters, etc.) Have your customer service reps explain the campaign at the end of phone calls. You get the picture. Leverage your own infrastructure to help get the word out.

Have Legal Approve Everything…
You are not a lawyer, so don’t make the mistake of not having your legal team or outside legal counsel approve your campaign. Let me say this again just so I’m clear. DO NOT LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN WITHOUT LEGAL REVIEWING EVERY ASPECT OF THE PROGRAM. I’ve seen campaigns run without a hitch and I’ve also seen campaigns come close to imploding. It’s all about the execution. I’m fanatical about this stage…it’s just in my blood. Listen to your lawyers…legal is a necessary element to your successful marketing campaigns. Make changes based on their feedback and get final approval before moving forward. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

Summary
So there you have it, some important elements to consider while creating your viral marketing campaign. This obviously doesn’t cover everything involved, but I plan on writing more posts related to viral marketing in the future.

Here are a few final words of advice…
* Be sure to view your ideas from the perspective of a would-be participant. It might be a great idea to you and your staff…but might fall flat with the people who will actually be participating.
* Definitely try to inject fun and energy into your campaign.
* Use technology to make it as interactive as possible.
* Use a wide range of online marketing channels to promote your campaign.

Last, my lawyer wanted me to add a line from him:

“This blog post about viral marketing sets forth the entire blog post and understanding of the parties relating to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior viral marketing blog posts and understandings, both written and oral, among the parties with respect to viral marketing, amplified word of mouth marketing, generating buzz, webfire, or any other terms related to viral marketing hereof.”

See, I told you to have legal review everything. :-) Sorry, I had to poke fun of legal at least one time in this post...

GG

Related Posts:
The Difference Between Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing, and Buzz Marketing
7 Drivers of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Sense of Blog Bounce Rate


Understanding Blog Bounce Rate This is the fourth post in my series on Bounce Rate, which is one of my favorite metrics in web analytics. Many online marketers are concerned with Bounce Rate, which makes a lot of sense since you can learn a lot from this metric… I've recently received many questions about Bounce Rate and how it relates to blog posts, so I thought it would be a good idea to address this topic in a post of my own. Let’s call it “adding context to your blog's bounce rate”.

There are 4 components to this post:
1. Your Blog Philosophy and Goals
2. Your Writing Style and How It Matches the Drivers of Your Readers
3. Related Content
4. Track and Learn

Your Blog Philosophy and Goals:
Determine the goal for your blog. BEFORE you start to analyze bounce rate for your blog posts, you should think about your overall blog philosophy and determine your goals. For example, is your goal to educate readers and to answer questions, are you trying to generate a large readership, will your blog help you sell products or services, is it a key mechanism for getting people to contact you, are you interested in building high search engine rankings, etc? Clearly understanding your goals will help you bring context to the bounce rate of your blog posts. To give a quick example, if your goal is to provide breaking news to your readers, then bounce rate might not be as important as you think. Why? Well, if someone finds your blog post about the latest widget update and they quickly visit the post, check out the breaking news, and then leave, is that bad? No, but that’s technically a bounce. Or, if they find your blog post and immediately choose to subscribe to your RSS feed, is that good or bad? It all depends on your goal... So, stop reading this post for a few seconds and think about the goal of your blog. Then write it down on a sticky note and place that on your desk somewhere you can easily see it. We’ll be referring back to it shortly.

The Angle of Your Blog Posts and the Key Drivers of Your Readers:
Now, let’s take a look at some different types of content and how they match up with the key drivers of your readers. There are a lot of reasons why people visit blog posts and you should try and understand your readers as much as possible in order to provide the best possible experience for them, which in turn, should lead to supporting the goal of your blog. Again, we need to bring context to your bounce rate situation. Note, there are obviously many types of blog posts, but the ones listed below are based on my experience helping clients and working on my own blogs.

Different Types of Blog Posts and Their Effect on Bounce Rate (based on my experience)

1. Educational Posts (Teaching Your Readers Something of Value)
Blog posts that teach your readers something of value. If you know that your readers want to learn something from you, then you have a great chance to provide additional educational content on your blog that would interest them. The key here is to understand what specific topics your readers are interested in based on your analysis, then write high quality posts that focus on that topic, and then provide links to relevant content on your blog. If you understand what your readers want to learn, then there's a good chance they will consume a lot of content on your blog that relates to that topic. And, they will appreciate it…finding your blog a great source of information about an important topic for them.

Educational Posts = Excellent Chance of Low Bounce Rate

2. Focused Entertainment and Isolated Stories
Bill Maher Throws Audience Member Out and Receives over 2000 diggs for it. Some readers simply enjoy finding interesting posts, even if they are very focused and/or isolated. They might love funny blog posts, shocking or disturbing blog posts, unique stories, entertaining posts, misc. facts, weird photos, parodies, etc. If you provide blog posts like this, you might notice higher bounce rates for that specific content. It’s not that readers don’t like you or your posts, it’s just the nature of the content. That said, you still might notice a lot of activity and links (which is a good thing). Think about it, let’s say someone is on digg and clicks through a story to view a video of Bill Maher kicking people out of his audience. You wrote a great post about what happened and how this affects journalists that work in Live TV. You might notice a high bounce rate with this type of post, since the focus might be on finding and watching the video and not on the blog or blog author in question. At this point, look at the sticky note I told you to create a few minutes ago and see how it matches up with the goal of your blog… You might have built 1000 links to your blog from that one post, but no RSS subscriptions. Is that good or bad? Good for organic search, but bad for building readership. Again, it depends on your goal...

Focused Entertainment = Good Chance of High Bounce Rate, but More Eyeballs and Links

3. Product and Service Reviews
Blog posts that provide product or service reviews. Providing reviews based on your expertise is a great way to build a loyal following. The beauty of the web (and blogging and social media), is that you can find reviews from normal, everyday people who will typically give you an honest opinion of a product or service. Readers interested in reviews tend to also follow related content until they have the confidence to make an informed decision. For example, if you review an iPhone and then also review a Blackberry Curve, there’s a great chance readers looking for this type of content will read both posts (as long as you let them know the additional content is there!) More on this later. It makes sense if you think about it. Put yourself in their shoes…you are about to spend a few hundred dollars, you aren’t sure if it’s right for you, and you just found a person like you providing a real-world review without marketing spin. There's a reason that Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) is as hot as it is now.... Just make sure you find the right blogger…

Product or Service Reviews = Excellent Chance of Low Bounce Rate

4. Blog Posts that Benchmark
Blog posts that benchmark. We’ve all wanted to find blog posts explaining the best way to do something, right? (whether it's for business or personal use) For example, some visitors may be looking for the best way to launch a new business or the best way to improve their golf game. These readers are looking to find the best methods in the industry (whatever industry you are writing about), they want to know which is the best company or who is the top person, how they do it, and how to reproduce that effort in their own life. For example, someone may find your post about how to best run a fundraiser. This type of reader will be more apt to check out related posts, such as how to best organize your fundraising team, which marketing methods work best, and the top venues in your region to hold the fundraiser kickoff. You get the picture…

Benchmarking = Good Chance of Low Bounce Rate

5. Keep Me Posted
Breaking news on your blog.This type of content involves providing quick posts about something you just learned about. For example, when Google Analytics recently announced a series of upgrades, many bloggers who are focused on web analytics wrote quick posts letting their readers know. These posts might show a higher bounce rate than others. Again, it makes a lot of sense… you are quickly letting people know about breaking news so they will probably check out your post quickly and be on their way. You can definitely gain a following by doing this, since you are the source of new information, but you can’t expect these posts to be sticky. That said, these readers might subscribe to your feed, since you keep them posted. :-)

Benchmarking = Good Chance of Higher Bounce Rate, but High RSS Subscriptions

Note, there are obviously additional types of posts and drivers for blog readers, but I’ll keep this post manageable and stop here. Again, these are based on my experience. The main point is to understand the angle of your posts and how these posts match up with what your readers are looking for (what drives them to read blog posts).

The Anti-Bounce
Providing related content is the anti-bounce rate. There is a common thread that’s been running throughout this post…related content. For bloggers that are just starting out, unfortunately, you'll need to write faster. ;-) Once you've created great content on your blog, the next step is to analyze your web analytics and then provide killer content that’s relevant to key posts on your blog. The third step is to make sure readers can find your related content! This can be done in several ways:

Ways to Provide Related Content:
1. Inline Links, or links within the blog post content (my favorite)
2. A list of related posts at the end of the blog post in question
3. Tagging your posts
4. Utilizing your sidebar to provide additional links
5. Providing search functionality

Each of these techniques can work, but I’m a bigger fan of inline links, links below your post, and tagging. In my opinion, inline links actually provide better context for the reader, but that’s just my opinion. For example, I’ve also written blog posts about how to lower your bounce rate. This inline link gives my readers some context.

A Quick Note About Tracking Outbound Clicks and Content Navigation
Tracking outbound clicks and content navigation in your web analytics package. Using your web analytics package, you should definitely track as much as you can to determine behaviors that affect your bounce rate and consumption of blog content. For example, if you track outbound clicks, you can see which external links your readers find most important. This can help you determine which topics are hot and possibly what to focus on in future posts. For example, if you wrote a post about how to better your golf score and you notice a lot of readers clicking on a link to Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible, then maybe your next post should focus on the short game (your golf game within 100 yards). Simple example, but you get the point! BTW, reading Dave's books lowered my golf score by 10 strokes. :)

Web Analytics Note: Google Analytics will soon support tracking of outbound clicks natively. This will make your life a lot easier... rather than manually tagging each outbound link!

Content Navigation is also important to analyze. This is where you can target a blog post in your analytics package and view how visitors got to that specific post and then also view where they go after reading the post. So, you might see 60% of the visitors to a blog post landed on that blog post (the first interaction with your site in a session). Then 80% of those readers went to related posts, 10% bounced, and 10% subscribed to your RSS feed. Viewing content navigation can help you determine how readers behave on your site in relation to the type of blog post you provide.

It’s All About Context
In closing, it’s hard to simply look at Bounce Rate for your blog without understanding the other factors involved. You need context. A high bounce rate a on a blog post might actually make sense, as weird as that sounds. If you start by mapping out a goal for your blog, pay attention to how you write your posts, understand how that matches the drivers of your readers, provide related content easily within your blog posts, and track everything at a granular level, then you can begin to understand blog content and reader behavior. Phew, that’s a mouthful!

Now, in the spirit of this blog post, definitely check out the other posts that are part of my Bounce Rate series! :-)

* Bounce Rate and Exit Rate

* Why is My Homepage Bounce Rate So High?

* 5 More Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your ROAS

GG

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Enterprise Rent-A-Car : The Story That Everyone Wants to Hear!


Enterprise Rental Car and Extraordinary Customer ServiceIt ends up my blog post from last week about the drivers of word of mouth marketing had an interesting effect... no matter who I've spoken with recently about web marketing, we somehow come back to the 7 drivers listed in my last post! It’s a weird phenomenon. :-) Over the past week I’ve listened to many stories about how WOM has impacted a wide range of businesses, and out of the 7 drivers of WOM that I listed in the post, the “Extraordinary Customer Experiences” listing really seemed to resonate. I believe this is because it’s something that you as a business owner can directly impact. During my conversations about WOM, I’m inevitably asked if I have an extraordinary customer experience to tell. No, not a client example, but my own experience as Glenn Gabe. That’s actually an easy question for me…it’s my experience with Enterprise Rent-A-Car… hands down. When I tell people about my experience, I get the same reaction almost every time. “You need to write a blog post about that!” So, based on popular demand, here it is… Buckle up and enjoy the ride. No pun intended. ;-)

Have You Heard the Joke About a College Grad, a Bus, and a Resume?
I had just graduated college and I was ready and eager to interview with companies in Corporate America. I was hoping to land a great job in New York, living only 40 minutes outside of the greatest city on earth (OK, I’m biased). I received a call from Perrier about a position in their NYC office. I did a solid job on the phone interview, and I was asked to visit the Manhattan office for a second interview. Cool. I’m excited. So, I had 2 decent choices for getting into NYC from where I lived, the bus to the Port Authority and a train to Hoboken where I could pick up the path to midtown. Being completely inexperienced with commuting to NYC at the time, I chose the bus. I won’t explain all of the intricacies about why the train is better, but to me, the train rules. So, it’s a hot and humid summer day in NY (more on this later), I’m dressed in a new suit that doesn’t really fit well, and I’m off to Manhattan for my interview, ready to take on the world.

Summer in NY
It was 90 degrees that day with high humidity, which means I was miserable as soon as I left the air conditioning… I parked my car near the bus stop and waited for the bus to show up. The 10 minutes waiting for the bus felt like I was in the Sahara Desert and knowing that I had to stay in that suit while acing my interview was starting to freak me out a little bit. Remember, I’m right out of college. The bus arrives and we’re on our way. I noticed immediately that it was really hot on the bus. That’s the proverbial red flag number 1. Just a few minutes into the ride, I noticed the smell of burning oil. Uh oh… Red flag number 2. About 10 minutes into the trip, the bus broke down. So, here I was, at least 2 to 3 miles from my car, on a hot broken down bus, and with no idea how long it would take to fix. And, since I was new at the job hunting game, I didn’t leave enough time in case something catastrophic happened, like this… so there was a good chance that I would miss the interview. Great…

Go West Young Man!
Well, it was actually North, but that’s not important. I climbed off the bus and loosened up my tie, now throwing my jacket over my shoulder. I thought I might as well start walking back to my car. Remember, cell phones weren’t very popular at this point… It’s not like I could quickly call a taxi from the side of the road. I had about 45 minutes to get into NYC for my interview. Only a few minutes into my walk, I came across a line of stores, one of which was an Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Not knowing exactly where I was in relation to where my car was parked, I wanted to ask someone if I was on the right path. So, I walked into Enterprise, sweaty and frustrated and asked if I was heading in the right direction. The manager answered, “Yes, but you’ve got a few miles to walk back to your car.” I frowned, thanked him, and turned back to the door when he asked another question, “Are you going on an interview?” See, I actually looked more like a college grad going on an interview than I thought I did at the time! Big shock, right? I was young, wearing a new suit, and held a cheesy portfolio in my hand (of course with nothing in it but a copy of my resume and blank paper!) So I answered, “Yes, but there’s no way I’m going to make it, since it’s in NYC”. He didn’t hesitate and grabbed his keys. “I’ll drive you to your car. Let’s land you a job.” On the way to my car, I thanked him a few dozen times and even tried to pay him! He of course wouldn’t take any money, but he asked that I follow up with him to let him know how the interview went (and if I made it in time). “You bet I’ll follow up!”

An Important Lesson…Nobody Knows What Happened 15 Minutes Ago…
I hopped in my car and drove into Manhattan like a bat out of hell. I was lucky…I didn’t hit much traffic. I flew through the Lincoln Tunnel, parked near Penn Station, and ran into Penn Plaza. I even got to the office with a few minutes to spare. The hiring manager actually needed a few extra minutes to finish another interview. Phew…no problem. :-) “Tell him to take his time”, I said to the receptionist. That’s when I learned a great lesson that I’ve taken with me to this day. No matter what happens before a sales call or meeting, how hard it is to get there, what happened on the way, heck, what happened on your way up the elevator, nobody knows that… You just need to perform to the best of your ability in the moment and deal with any circumstances later. Anyway, I didn’t mention what happened with the bus to the hiring manager, I did a great job on the interview, and I was pushed to the next level, which was an interview at Perrier headquarters with the Regional Manager. To make a long story short(er), I landed the job and spent the next 7 years at Perrier. Those 7 years truly helped build the entrepreneurial platform that I use every single day. They gave me the best training, education, and real-world experience necessary for me to grow professionally. To me, my experience working at a large company that was going through tremendous growth, with the ability to learn, execute, test, while furthering my education, was critical to my success… Those 7 years definitely changed my life.

“We simply work hard to be the best.”
That quote is directly from the Enterprise Rental Car website, and boy, do I believe that! See, what the manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car did that summer day truly impacted my life. It’s not a corny cliche, it’s real life. He didn’t need to drive me anywhere… I wasn’t a customer at that point, and never had been. But, he went above and beyond…actually he went way above and beyond. Think about it, how many of your employees would do what he did?? Not many, right? I ended up writing a letter to his Regional Manager about my experience and I hope they plastered that story all over Enterprise Rent-A-Car Land. He deserved to be promoted…and that very day. And of course, I followed up with him to thank him another dozen times.

They’ve Earned a Lifetime Customer Evangelist
My Enterprise Rent-A-Car story is truly an extraordinary customer experience, and one that will be hard for any other company to beat (at least personally). So, when I travel and I’m presented with several options for rental cars, you bet I go with Enterprise every single time I can. I don’t think twice. In addition, I also recommend Enterprise any chance that I get, and coincidentally, this is typically during the meetings that I’m traveling to!...so it’s darn targeted. :-)

So, have you experienced extraordinary customer service like I did? I’d love to hear your stories (and they don’t need to be as crazy as the one I listed above!) I know the stories are out there…

GG

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

7 Drivers of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)


Drivers of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) has become a hot topic over the past few years in marketing. The web has helped foster the explosive growth of WOM, since it’s a powerful catalyst for spreading the word to targeted individuals in mere nanoseconds! Many companies hear about “empowering customer evangelists” and they want to jump right in. Of course, it’s not that easy, but it is a powerful marketing channel that I recommend to most of my clients (if it fits). More on that later… In my experience over the past 13 years, I have seen how the power of WOM can impact a business. It can be a powerful driver of buzz and sales, to say the least. So why do some products connect with customers and others sit in what I like to call “WOM Limbo”? Let’s face it, some products seem to start a fire under customers and others wander by, simply as part of a business transaction.

So, what drives WOM in customers?
I’ve thought about this a lot over the past 4 or 5 years as WOM has grown in popularity as a marketing channel. In addition, I’ve helped clients try and harness the power of WOM to grow their own businesses and I’ve also kept a close eye on the industry. Last, but definitely not least, I’m a customer evangelist myself, and proud of it! When I find something that impacts my life, I love to tell people about it. So, my consulting, research, observations, and my own experiences as a customer evangelist helped me identify some of the key drivers that cause people to buzz about their favorite products and services. Note, this is obviously not a complete list of all drivers of WOM, but it’s a good start.

1. The “I can do that?” Factor
Meaning, a product or service enables you to do something that you were never able to do. DVR’s come to mind. How many people are ridiculously busy now with work, kids, social life, etc? VCR’s didn’t cut it, and people were not able to catch the shows they wanted to see. Hello TIVO, and now hello DVR’s from every major cable company. When I bought my first TIVO, you couldn’t shut me up. My wife literally had to put a Hannibal Lecter-looking grill on my face to shut me up! :-) Note, you can read more about my adventures with TIVO and the Comcast HD DVR here. The bottom line: Enable customers to do something that they could never do before, and it can be a huge driver of word of mouth for your business.

2. The Early Adopter
Do you know someone who always wants the latest and greatest product? I do, and these people are buzz engines. For example, they buy the latest gizmo and want to tell the world about it. iPods, iPhones, Blu-ray HD DVD players, HD TV’s, and gaming systems like Xbox all come to mind. Not only do early adopters buzz about their latest gadgets, they typically have a platform to drive the message. Can you say blogging anyone?

3. Extraordinary Customer Experiences
We all know what this means…when your experience was so good that you feel obligated to tell the world about it. For me, BuyCostumes.com, Barnes and Noble, Survey Monkey and Amazon.com all come to mind (online). Offline examples include Honda, Enterprise Rental Car, Marriott, and the Ping G5 Driver, the latest weapon in my golf arsenal. :-)

A Small Business Tangent: When I think about small business WOM, the party supply store in my town called Party and More comes to mind. It’s run by a woman (Denise) who truly gets customer service and word of mouth. The first time I was in her store, she spent time speaking with my 3 year old daughter. She gave her a free balloon and was genuinely interested in my daughter’s stories. Then, I saw Denise after my son was born and she gave me a display of balloons for my wife, and also spoke with my daughter about the new addition to our family. Actually, I didn’t even know that Denise owned the business since she was spending so much time with me and my family! Now every time we go to that shopping center, my daughter asks if we can go see “the balloon lady”. And we often do… I also jump at the chance to tell people to go there.

4. It’s So Close, You Can Taste It….So to speak.
Taste and smell are powerful senses…so it should be no surprise that people love to talk about food. Find a healthy alternative to french fries that tastes great, and you’ll probably tell 50 people about it. Or, if you are part of an online community or utilize social media sites, you might be able to tell thousands of people, and fast… For restaurants, you jump up another level…since service is now part of the picture. Now you need outstanding food and good service. Most people know that restaurants depend on positive word of mouth to survive, and negative word of mouth can put them out of business faster than you can say “Check please!”

5. Health
If a product or service positively impacts the health of customers, they tend to want to tell the world. Stories of people diagnosing a problem on WebMD, even when their own doctor didn’t catch it, will drive more people to the site. Omega 3 pills are another good example, with studies showing the impact on mood, brain power, retention, memory, cholesterol, etc. Diets are another good example, since one person that successfully loses weight can drive hundreds or more to the try the same style of diet. We’ve all seen that happen, right?

Dr. Oz on OprahOr, how about the latest craze, Dr. Oz on Oprah. Now, would Dr. Oz be as popular today without Oprah? Probably not, since she was the catalyst for his explosive growth. That's the power of a famous influencer. More on influencers later in the post... WOM has taken over with Oz and many people are talking about him now. So, it looks like you're not in Kansas anymore Dr. Oz.

6. The Power of Children
If it impacts your children, you’ll shout it from every mountain top. Parents would do anything to help their children. Moms and Dads are big drivers of WOM for children’s products, whether it’s toys, cribs, strollers, bedding, car seats, food, etc. Don’t believe me? Visit the babycenter forums and browse around. You’ll be shocked at how much activity goes on there…and for products you never thought existed. Well, like the Munchkin Fresh Food Eater for Babies. My son loves it...

7. It Gives You an Edge Professionally
Everyone wants to succeed at work. So, new applications, classes that enhance your skill-set, new sources of information, new ways to find leads, etc. can all drive WOM. In addition, influencers within specific verticals can drive a lot of business. If you receive an unsolicited endorsement from a key figure in an industry, watch out. Your website may go down from the explosion of traffic. Seriously, I have seen this happen and it’s amazing to watch. In addition, the people calling after reading that endorsement are typically ready to buy. They tend to feel that if John likes it, and they know John, then it's good enough for them. That’s powerful. Note, key influencers actually apply to all categories, but my last point was focused on professional wom (i.e. a leading consultant for leadership development endorsing a new class.)

So, those are 7 key drivers of WOM. Again, this wasn’t meant to cover every driver of WOM, but it’s a start. I plan to expand on this topic in future posts, so stay tuned.

But I’d like to hear from you now. Does your product or service fit into one of these categories? Or is it in WOM Limbo for some reason? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

GG

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Effective Email Marketing with BuyCostumes.com


Buying Halloween Costumes from BuyCostumes.comI love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the only time during the year when I can scare people without the fear of getting arrested! :-) In the past, buying costumes was always something I did at one of those fly by night Halloween stores that pops up a month before the 31st and is gone by November 1st. Thanks to the web, buying costumes has gotten much easier. I’ve been a big fan of BuyCostumes.com for some time now. I’ve been buying from them for 3 years and each purchase has been a great buying experience. So, when I received their latest email, which prompted me to buy 2 costumes and some cool accessories, I figured it would be a ghoul, I mean good time to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Email Marketing and BuyCostumes.com
BuyCostumes.com has always done a good job at keeping in touch with me. And based on my positive experience with them, along with my love for Halloween, I’m also happy to check out their site to see their latest and greatest costumes and offers. Now, I've explained in a previous post how I believe that email marketing to your internal list is the most powerful online marketing channel. How powerful? Here's a good example. I remember speaking with a friend of mine about a month ago regarding Halloween (he also has 2 kids.) I explained that I needed to get moving and figure out what costume I was going to buy and that I just received a good offer via email. He quickly said, “You mean the email from BuyCostumes.com?” That’s powerful. So, I wanted to focus on what I believe are some of the key elements of BuyCostumes.com's effective email marketing.

The Email Creative:
Their email marketing creative always intrigues me enough that I click through to the site. They provide great visuals of their products and always provide excellent offers (like the most recent offer: spend $100 and receive $20 off). I knew I would spend $100, so their offer was a perfect fit. In addition, they always provide their offers in the upper right hand corner in a bold and dark font (easy to see). I also know to always look there to find the details of the offer. The subject lines they use are direct and typically explain the offer.

For example:
“Still time to save - 3 Killer Halloween Offers”.
This was a reminder, so I was already aware of the offers. Their creative always includes html text and images, giving people with connection issues or email clients that block images a way to find out more information. I can’t tell you how many times I have received emails with one block image, which can kill your campaign’s response rate…

They Don’t Bombard Me (Unless it’s Halloween...)
I never feel like they bombard with me emails, but I also don’t feel like they’ve been out of touch for too long. Yes, as we’re approaching Halloween, their email activity has definitely picked up (as you would guess it would), but it’s Halloween and I understand this is their big quarter. They have provided great offers along the way, all with a relatively short lifespan (which is smart). It’s hard to give people a sense of urgency if you give them a month to buy something. Actually, with email, an offer that expires in a month will probably never get used. Your email will drop below the fold in someone’s inbox, never to be seen again. Most email campaigns have a 3 to 5 day lifespan, and I’ve rarely seen a lifespan of more than 2 weeks.

Here’s an example:
BuyCostumes.com sent me an email with 3 great offers, which I left in my inbox. Then, like everyone, I was slammed with work. I made a mental note of one of the offers and moved on to my work. So, a few days later, I received a reminder, which immediately drove me to act. That's smart email marketing. I always recommend blasting a follow up to people that haven’t responded to the first email, if possible. The reason is simple…people are ridiculously busy and it’s entirely too easy for your email to fall below the fold in someone’s inbox. Then it’s history. A reminder is a smart way to take "should-have-been conversions" to "actual conversions".

BuyCostumes.com (the website) Meets Your Expectations
When you click through to a site like BuyCostumes.com, your hope is that it meets your expectations. The website should have a great selection, be easy to navigate, offer excellent imaging functionality so you can see costumes up close and personal, provide fun accessories you might need to polish off your Halloween costume, and of course offer competitive pricing. BuyCostumes.com definitely does not fall short. I’m a big horror fan, so to click Adult Costumes, Horror, and then drill into costumes for men makes it very easy for me to target what I’m looking for. Then they enable you to drill down even further by clicking a subcategory within Horror, like Horror Movies. The costume listing dynamically changes based on your criteria. With thousands of costumes on the website, this functionality makes finding the one you want much, much easier.

Product Detail Page on BuyCostumes.comProduct Detail Page Imaging Functionality (Pan and Zoom)
Once you find a costume, you can easily zoom into an image (which opens in a new window). You can pan and zoom to get a better look at the costume, which is almost essential if you are serious about your costumes (like I am). Although they do have pan and zoom functionality, I actually think BuyCostumes.com can do better in this category. But, if you break it down, the fact of the matter is that you can get a good look at the costume using their current functionality. More on this later in my post.


Ratings and Reviews
They provide ratings and customer reviews, but I didn’t see many reviews… That’s a double-edged sword with providing reviews. It looks really bad when nobody is reviewing your products! So, I’ll help them out here…

Customers of BuyCostumes.com, review your products, let other customers know what you think, and make their buying experience even better! I just added a review so I’ve done my job. :-)

{Update: BuyCostumes.com launched a campaign to drive more reviews, and they added a nice incentive for customers (a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party). I recently received the email from BuyCostumes asking me to review the costumes that I just purchased. More about this later in the post.}

Search Functionality and Breadcrumb Trails
They have excellent search functionality, enabling you to search specific sections of the site and not just the entire site. They also provide a breadcrumb trail so you can easily find your way back to previous screens.

A Great Closer - Easy Ordering Process and Timely Shipping
I have always found it easy to order from BuyCostumes.com. Once you choose "checkout", it’s basically one step to submit your order. Their email correspondence is fast and provides you with all of the information you need (order details, track your order, contact customer service, etc.) Shipping is fast and I’ve never had a problem with the speed at which it arrives or the condition of the packaging. They’ve built up a lot of trust with me, which is extremely hard to gain and very easy to lose.

Possible Improvements for BuyCostumes.com
Don’t get me wrong, as you can see I think they do a great job. That said, there are always ways to improve.

* Segment their email list
I have always purchased horror costumes, yet I always get their general emails (which tells me that they haven’t segmented their list). It would be nice to get an email based on my previous purchases. For example, “Hi Glenn. We’ve noticed that you like our horror costumes. Here are the new horror costumes for 2007. Or, here are the top horror costumes from 2006.” So on and so forth. By the way, there are probably a thousand link-bait ideas for them, being a costume website!

* Provide Better Imaging Functionality
As I stated earlier, they provide good pan and zoom functionality, but I still think there is better technology out there. I think this type of imaging functionality is critical for buying costumes, so it would be a good idea for them to take a look at other solutions.

* Better Ratings and Reviews
This is not easy, since it’s based on customer participation. That said, they could encourage their customers to join the community and improve the site. Actually, it could be a good way to launch a word of mouth marketing campaign. For example, how many customers are as happy with BuyCostumes.com as I am? Probably quite a few. Tapping into passionate customers will only help their business, and WOM has become one of the hottest areas in web marketing. Also, how about a blog?? How fun would that be?

{Update: As I mentioned earlier, BuyCostumes launched a campaign to drive more reviews (very smart.) I received an email asking me to review my costumes for a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party. I explained above that I thought BuyCostumes.com should launch a campaign like this, and coincidentally, they did! And in true BuyCostumes form, they did a great job with the campaign. The email creative was clear and helpful, even providing the actual costumes you purchased with a link to the review form. Once you hit the site, the review form was extremely thorough, which will definitely help future buyers make informed decisions. And my favorite piece of functionality…you can upload photos of yourself (or your friends) in the costume! Fantastic idea… Great User Generated Content (UGC). The results? After browsing the site today, I see many more reviews. The campaign is working and I’m confident that these new customer reviews will help BuyCostumes meet and exceed customer expectations.}

I’ll close my post with two points…
1. If you are a Halloween fan, definitely check out BuyCostumes.com (and sign up for their email alerts). You may never buy a costume from another store or website.

2. If you are a web marketer and want to see a great example of effective email marketing, driving customers to a site that meets (or exceeds) their expectations, then you should also visit BuyCostumes.com and sign up for their email alerts (see link above).

By the way, I’ll be set up outside my house again for those of you trick or treating in my neighborhood…that is, if you dare…{cue evil laughter}. ;-)

GG

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

TIVO HD DVR at $300 - Too Little, Too Late?


TIVO HD DVR Pricing Forces Customer Evangelist To Buy Competing DVRAs I mentioned in a previous post, I was a TIVO fanatic. Notice the word “was”. From the second I bought my first TIVO, I became a word of mouth marketing machine for the product. As a customer evangelist, I was my own viral marketing channel for TIVO (no pun intended). It’s what every company strives for, right? Get people so jazzed up about your product that they find ways to tell the world about it. Whether it’s in a blog post, at a party, at the park with your kids, at work, on a plane, train, etc. You get the point! So, with HD booming over the past few years and everyone buying HD TV’s, how would TIVO respond? If you want HD resolution, then you didn’t want to use a standard definition TIVO box. TIVO fans eagerly waited to see…

Well Hello Competitors!
As cable and satellite companies (like Comcast in my area) introduced their DVR’s at extremely reasonable prices, more and more people started to try them out. They were integrated into the cable box, supported by the cable company, and the installation just seemed “cleaner” than installing a TIVO. Again, TIVO fans waited to see what TIVO would do… Personally, at that time, I loved TIVO and would not give the Comcast DVR a try just yet… I was a loyal TIVO fan.

TIVO Offers Their HD DVR!!!...
…At $800? What? When most HD TV’s range from $1200 - $2500, you want to charge me a whopping $800 for a DVR?? Seriously? No, come on…you’re pulling my leg. There’s an extra zero in there or something. OK, I’m going overboard here, but this was my first reaction. So I was stuck…I loved TIVO, didn’t want to go to the dark side of using a cable company, but I wanted my HD TV!! I really have no idea what TIVO was thinking. They basically thumbed their noses at their top customers…the people that spread the word about their product like wildfire. Forcing them to make a decision like this was dead wrong. And, that TIVO's marketing department thought this was a good idea scares me as a professional.

The Call to TIVO Customer Service
So, reluctantly, I made the move to Comcast’s HD DVR, and overall, I was happy with the product. There are definitely some things I don’t like about it, but overall, I’m happy. Then I had to call TIVO to cancel one of my plans (I have 2 TIVO’s and one would remain hooked up to a standard def TV). The woman I spoke with was extremely nice and customer service oriented. I was expecting the AOL-like method of not letting you cancel the plan, but I didn’t experience that. She was professional, empathetic, and made me feel that I was her first call of the day (which I knew wasn’t the case…) Now, you should notice the word I used above “empathetic”. This is because when she asked why I was canceling one of my plans, I explained that $800 was ridiculous and although I love my TIVO, the smart decision was to make a move to Comcast. Then I waited to here her pitch for staying, why the HD TIVO was worth the $800, so on and forth. But, I didn’t hear that at all…you know what I heard?? “I hear you Glenn…to be honest, it’s hard for us to even afford the $800”. What?? That’s from a TIVO employee for crying out loud!! Now, if that’s not a reason to second guess your marketing strategy, then I don’t know what is.

Months Later, TIVO introduces their “Affordable” HD DVR
Great. Whoopee. Now I feel like they insulted my intelligence. This is what I was asking for months ago… I actually would have paid $400 back then. I said this all along to my wife. “If they were only a few hundred dollars less...” $400 was my limit, but they kept it at $800. Now, after making the move to Comcast, I’m supposed to do a double flip and buy the $300 HD TIVO? I don’t think so. Note that the $300 TIVO is a different product than the $800, but for the average customer, that doesn't matter.

It’s funny. In the past, whenever I heard someone talking about TIVO, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Now when I hear “TIVO”, it’s a much different feeling, like I just walked into a cheesy car dealership and a guy with a skinny tie, wearing floods, with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth just approached me. “Hey boss, looking for a new car? We've got some great prices...”

It’s funny how a marketing strategy can take someone from being a company fanatic to someone writing a post like this. Ouch. It truly is sad.

So, what do you think? Is it too little, too late?

GG

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