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Your Stuff Is Probably Good Enough

Small business owners and entrepreneurs create new stuff everyday. And the feeling that a business, product or service is their “baby” leads to constant fussing over making it good enough, better or perhaps the best.

photo credit: atibens via photopin cc

photo credit: atibens via photopin cc

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for putting really good stuff out there, but at some point making it better becomes a game of diminishing returns or even a crutch for the real need – creating a remarkable customer experience.

If you really want to create a better product, service or company create a better experience and wrap it around what you actually sell.

I know a lot of people talk about customer experience these days, but I’m not simply talking about better customer service processes and response times.

I’m talking about the stuff most people never see, you probably don’t even know occurs, but your customers and prospect surely feel, even if they never say it.

I’m talking about the hidden processes or lack of processes that erode a great experience over time and keep you from building the kind of momentum that comes from something close to perfect.

I spent some time recently with a brilliant marketer named Dean Graziosi as he explained a recent process he undertook to expose the gaps that might exist in his organization’s customer experience.

His business does hundreds of millions of dollars a year in training and support services in the real estate industry. His customers are raving fans for his products, he uses his own products and advice to close thousands of personal real estate purchases each year so he knows is product is great.

He told me that he recently hired someone to “secret” shop all of his products, processes, policies and training. He had them sign up for information, attend workshops, buy products, return products, complain, question, inquire and enroll in all manner of training.

His number one goal throughout the research was to judge how his undercover customer “felt” throughout the process. He wanted to know what they were thinking, what seemed odd, what slowed them down, what made them doubt their purchase, what kept them from succeeding and what felt awesome.

By focusing on understanding the conversations his customers were having with themselves throughout he could go to work on creating the most positive narrative possible. Before he could do that however, he had to get inside the real story.

The distinction to measure how every interaction made a customer feel is key here. So, often we want to create what’s fast and efficient or what seems obvious to us, when the real money is in creating something that feels good and right and caring in the mind and heart of the customer.

While Graziosi runs an incredible company, with a complete customer focus, he readily admits that this process uncovered dozens of seemingly little things that, when viewed through the eyes of a newbie customer, became obvious places for improvement in how his customers feel about their experience.

It is very easy to get caught in the trap of creating a certain response or process that works for us, but sends an unintentional wrong signal to a customer. Simple things like email copy that is robotic or lack of communication while a customer waits for an order often work against us in ways we no longer even consider.

Take this idea seriously as it could unlock simple innovations that deliver far greater return than any improvement or tweak in what you sell could even offer.

Hire someone or, better yet, multiple someones, to go through everything you do as a business with an eye on how they feel throughout the process.. Require them to sign up for free stuff, get your newsletter, buy your products, engage your people, experience your service, follow-up and every form of communication. Give them each a journal and ask them to record how they feel about every email, conversation or interaction.

Then, map out every process, every touch point, every way in which someone comes into contact with your organization as a baseline and start taking it apart based on the feedback your shoppers give you.

Include every email, ad, form, response and timing as part of the map. Don’t forget seemingly unmarketing type contacts in things like shopping cart navigation, payment processing, returns and delivery.

So, where are the gaps? Where could you build trust, represent the brand and ease tension and remorse in ways that you are not. This process should reveal both ways that you are currently screwing up royally and opportunities to create some very elegant and profitable innovations.

Make this project a priority and watch your business magically experience a significant bump in business and referrals.

The Best Lead and Referral Generation Tool Is . . .

I suspect I’ve uttered the sentiment in the image below several thousand times over the past few years.

happycustomersmall

It sounds so simple, but it isn’t always easy. The greatest way to generate more referrals is to be more referable. The greatest way to generate more leads is to give your customers something to talk about. The greatest way to build a business is focus more energy on conversion and fulfillment than you do on creating awareness.

Teach

Few things sell better than teaching. Make it not only part of your marketing, make it part of your culture. Teach your people, teach your customers, teach your industry. When you become a education resource to your entire community you’ll become the company of obvious choice.

Overcommunicate

When you get a new customer teach them how everything works, who in your organization they’ll want to know and how to get more out of what you’ve agreed upon. Tell them what you’re working on for them, how their order is doing, when it will ship, why it will be late, when they can expect to get a new model and pretty much anything you can think of at least two or three times.

Surprise

Plan to surprise your customers in a good way. Few things get people talking more than a fun surprise. And the good news is we do it so infrequently that it’s just not that hard to do. Find someone in your organization, you know the one, and give them huge leeway in terms of creatively surprising your customers.

Exceed

Throw something in that they didn’t order, let them have samples from your strategic partners, ship early, ship free, do more than you said you would. Doing what you promised might actually exceed some people’s expectation, but it’s funny how complacent our customers can become when we merely do what was expected. Shake it up on purpose.

Measure

Are you measuring the results your customers are actually getting? Make it a point, no a process, to go back to every client and get some form of measurement. Are they thrilled, get a testimonial. Are they so-so, figure out how to improve. Are they unhappy, fix it! Any of these results are better than simply wondering or hoping.

Appreciate

Today, go order some simple thank you cards and start writing thank you notes to everyone that’s helping you build your dream into an empire.

I’ve just released a new free eBook that delves deeper into this topic and the subject of trust and referral building.

It’s called How to Build a Referral Engine, it’s free and I invite you to check it out here.

Begin With the Customer Experience in Mind

When most businesses create a new product or service offering they initially develop the attributes of the product or service. Makes sense, you don’t have anything to sell unless you create something people want to buy.

The Marketing Hourglass

Marketing Hourglass

But, the very next thing they do, once they think they have a winner of their hands, is go to work on the promotion of the new offering – the sales letter, landing page, brochure.

Again, another important marketing consideration, but I would like to suggest what is ultimately a much stronger path to take.

Begin with the end in mind.

In other words, the very first thing you should do when thinking about bringing a product or service to market is to think about what you want the customer to be thinking and feeling about your product or service180 days or so after they made the purchase and work backwards toward the point where they become interested in making a purchase.

The processes, touches and follow-ups you build by taking this “customer experience” approach can help ensure that you have a winner, promote a winner, and perhaps more importantly thrill your customer.

In the rush to create and promote our goods it’s this final, crucial point that often goes without thought or is made up after repeat sales and referrals lag.

Think of it this way – the sale is not complete until the customer is so happy they confidently make referrals.

So, a backwards process example for a training course you’re promoting might look something like this:

  • 180 days after purchase – customer receives free course updates and offer to meet with a select group of other course participants in an invitation only peer-to-peer group accountability program.
  • 90 days after purchase – customer receives email offering them 30% off of any other product or service of their choice as a current customer courtesy
  • 60 days after purchase – customer receives coupon offering free evaluation of their progress with the training course and the opportunity to engage a consultant to help them if they are stuck working on their own
  • 30 days after purchase – customer receives coupon for free 60 minute coaching session to help keep them on track
  • 14 days after purchase – customer receives coupon for 30 days of unlimited email support to keep them on track with their purchase
  • 7 days after purchase – customer receives mailing with additional bonus materials as a way of saying thank you for their purchase
  • Immediately on purchase – on successful shopping cart transaction customer is directed to Web page that hosts a welcome video that sets the expectation for when and how they will receive their purchase. Automated email provides instructions and orients the customer to the contents of their new purchase and how to receive support if they have questions.
  • Trial – After viewing video series prospect is offered the opportunity to download 2 free chapters from the course and receive free 30 minute coaching session to discuss their specific challenges.
  • Information gathering – After seminar prospect is offered opportunity to sign up to receive video series of client case studies and ebook featuring content covered in seminar
  • Awareness – Attends informational online seminar that dives into the problems most business face when trying to do X that your course addresses

Obviously, the components of this approach will vary greatly depending upon the offering and prospective customer, but it’s the thinking here that’s so important.

The process of beginning with the end in mind actually forces improvement on the product or service, creates opportunities to upsell and cross sell and focuses on the long term positive experience for the customer – which creates lead generation by way of referral and word of mouth.

Astute Duct Tape Marketing readers might recognize this as The Marketing Hourglass  – a process that suggests the development of logical processes that move prospects to customer and customers to loyal fans by way of 7 phases – know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.

One final word of advice. Don’t make this a stiff, automated, spammy drip system. Put personality, fun, surprise and value in each and every contact.

How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience

Everyone talks about creating a great customer experience, but few people really deliver one that’s special in any way. Creating an exceptional customer experience is pretty simple really – you only need to do one thing – pay attention.

Customer Touchpoint Map

Click to Download Map Form

Okay, I know you want more than that so I’ll expand on this thought and then break it back down again.

We lose customers and erode what could be a great customer experience when we fail to pay attention to every possible way that our business comes into contact with a customer, or for that matter, a prospect.

Everyone works in the marketing department

No matter what department bumps into a customer in the name of your business that department is performing a marketing and overall customer experience function.

So you see Stan from Accounting is equally capable of creating or ruining a great customer experience as Sandy from Customer Service, but I wonder how often you pay attention to that fact.

There’s plenty of evidence out there to suggest that our perceived experience with a company is often formed by our last contact, not the first impression, put on your Sunday best, marketing contact we’ve had.

Map the touchpoints

One of the most potent tools you can create for your business is something I call a Customer TouchPoint Map. (Click to download sample map form) The idea behind this tool is to use it to chart every way your business comes into, or should come into, contact with a customer and then set out to make sure that each touchpoint is designed to create a better customer experience. (This dovetails nicely with our Marketing Hourglass)

See, we’ve been trained to think that the marketing department is the only place where marketing messages, brand flourishes and little things matter.

One of the most effective marketing things the Natural Running Store did for me as a customer is slip a handwritten note and some samples from strategic partners into the box of running shoes I purchased recently.

What if your invoices had humorous quotes related to how super-excited you were to present them with this representation of the value delivered in every order? What if you delivered products on a bike?

What if you made it a point to follow-up with every customer using a simple tool that made it easy for them to vote on how good of a job you did? What if your CEO wrote hand-written notes of thanks?

What if you sent timely messages with videos educating customers on how to use or get more from their purchase? What if you included more than they expected?

What if you sent them flowers just because? What if your phone hold message wasn’t painful to listen too? What if you wrapped your shipments in works from local artists? What if . . .

All of the things mentioned above are examples of touches that could enhance your customer experience and get people talking, but it’s the collective focus on the entire map that really pays off.

It’s not really that hard, map it out – pay attention to how your business comes into contact with customers and make every touchpoint, with every department, thoughtful and downright enjoyable.

Why Social Media Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Talk to the handThe hype over social media still echos, but it just doesn’t really matter anymore. Recent surveys suggest that small businesses are still slow to adopt social media and it also doesn’t matter anymore. Social media agencies, departments, and experts don’t matter anymore.

The idea behind the hype, measurement and rush to claim guru status revolved around the tools and the platforms, all of which were new, none of which really were the point.

The reason social media doesn’t matter is because, upon further review, it doesn’t exist beyond a label. While all the categorizing, classifying and departmentalizing was going on, that which was called social media simply settled into the center of marketing and business strategy and behavior. Everything that we called social media is irrelevant and mislabed – there’s a new way of doing business and marketing for sure, but it’s a behavior and focus on customer involvement that’s become a new norm – and that’s all there is to it.

We don’t need social media tools, social media plans, social media agencies, or social media departments, we need marketing strategies and tactics that are informed by a terribly heightened customer expectation. I’m not the first marketer to suggest this for sure, the idea of engagement has always been a part of the social media thread, but we aren’t moving fast enough to stamp out this idea that social media is somehow still a new and meaningful concept – now that we understand what actually happened it’s time to drop the term, concept, and confusion and focus on what really matters.

Prospect engagement matters

If we’ve learned one thing over the last year or two, it’s that prospects are drawn to the ability to interact with the companies, brands, and messages that they choose to absorb. Marketing and sales must include this desired behavior in order to even get an invitation into the prospect’s decision making world.

Customer experience matters

Traditional lead generation is dead, we’ve all accepted this by now, but what’s replaced it? If being found by prospects is the new form of lead generation awareness, then trust is the new form of lead conversion. Trust happens rapidly when customers have an experience worth talking about. A remarkable customer experience is the most effective form of lead generation

Collaboration matters

The Internet has enabled a world where we can work in conjunction with prospects, customers, suppliers, mentors, advisors, and staff in ways that make the finished work a personalized experience infused with the real time input. Community sourcing is a practice that underpins all product, service and business development activities.

Fusion matters

Another powerful lesson gained over the last few years is that offline activity is enhanced, rather than replaced, by online activity. The careful fusion of hi touch business building that’s done face to face with hi tech business building that enables more frequent, personalized contact and communication is the secret to delivering the most advanced customer experience.

Let’s stop measuring adoption of social media and go to work on simply measuring effective interaction in marketing. I suppose as much as anything this is the major thread that runs through The Referral Engine