How engaged are you in digital?

June 20, 2018

digitalIt’s hard to imagine there is an active business today that doesn’t have some level of digital connection and engagement. But the truth is that how business leaders define engagement and the level in which they invest (time, money, staff, etc.) in that engagement is an incredibly wide range.

Deloitte released a study for Connected Small Business US, which was commissioned by Google to explore the levels of digital engagement among small businesses (250 or fewer employees) and the impact of each level.

The study determined that there were general levels:

  • Basic (no website/no social media presence)
  • Intermediate (simple website/basic digital marketing)
  • High (advanced, mobile-ready website/multiple social channels)
  • Advanced (use of data analytics/mobile apps)

As the researchers reviewed the activity level and the outcomes that aligned with each of the four levels of engagement, they came to some very interesting conclusions.

Digital engagement increases revenue. Seventy-seven percent of businesses in the advanced category reported expecting revenue growth over the next year—almost double the percentage of businesses in the most basic engagement level. The reason the advanced level businesses were confident in the potential of growth is because forty-five percent of them had already experienced revenue growth over the past year, compared to only twelve percent of businesses identified as having a basic digital engagement. Thirty-two percent of the organizations in the high category reported revenue growth.

Digital engagement increases employment needs. When a business experiences increased revenue, it only makes sense that they’d need a larger workforce. So no surprise, the category of companies that reported larger percentages of revenue growth (high and advanced) also reported an increase in employment growth. The research also pointed out that people employed by a digitally savvy company “tend to be relatively more productive, with the average revenue per employee at digitally advanced businesses being two times as high as small businesses with a basic level of engagement.”

Digital engagement creates new products and services. Over the past twelve months, businesses at the basic level had less than a ten percent chance of introducing a new product or service. On the flip side, almost seventy percent of the most digitally advanced companies reported did. New channels mean new opportunities, and if you’re not there, you can’t take advantage of them.

So what does this mean for your business? It means that maintaining just the “table stakes” level of digital engagement is costing you opportunity, market share, and money. If you are at that level, which was defined as just having a simple website and not really using effective email marketing, social media or exploring the data that these tools can give you, you need to recognize the consequences. This should not come as a surprise to you but perhaps the outcomes that this study points to can serve as the wake-up call to drive you to explore how your business can step further into the digital realm.

This study emphasizes what common sense has told us for some time. The way we do business has changed. The expectations that the marketplace has for us have changed. We may be the only element that hasn’t yet changed.

For every business, whether you only serve a local audience or an international customer base, embracing digital strategies is a business must. Tools like marketing automation, social media, mobile readiness, and letting the data help you determine what your prospects are interested in and what you can offer to encourage trial and conversion is more business survival than anything else. Today, as the research clearly demonstrates, businesses that ignore that truth are simply behind in revenue, growth, and innovation. But pretty soon, without making some changes, they may just not exist anymore.



Where do AI and marketing collide?

June 13, 2018

AIAI or artificial intelligence is, at its simplest definition, when a computer is capable of mimicking human intelligence and making decisions/taking action based on that intelligence.

We’ve been slowly evolving to AI being pretty commonplace for years. I’m not talking robot uprising. I’m really talking about tools that help us analyze data and choices to predict best outcomes. Odds are, you are taking advantage of AI today and just didn’t label it as such. The iPhone’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are simple examples of AI. Both use machine learning technology to get smarter based on our choices and actions so they can serve our needs better with each interaction.

There’s no doubt, given all of the consumer data we have at our disposal today, that AI and marketing will merge in some pretty interesting ways. Granted, we’re talking infancy stages, but the truth is you are probably using it today without recognizing it.

Here’s a quick look at some of the elements of our work where AI is already present and will have an even bigger influence down the road.

Digital media: Given the almost infinite number of advertising options and the advent of programmatic media buying it’s easy to see how computer calculations and propensity modeling would save us time, remove the human bias and deliver projected outcomes. Results can be tracked, modeled, modified and improved upon in nanoseconds, as opposed to how long it would take us to do it manually.

Retargeting and ad targeting are two areas where AI is already playing a pivotal role and is getting better every day.

Content: As a writer, I will admit that I bristle at this idea. How can a computer possibly write as well as a human being? In many cases (at least for now) it can’t. A computer can’t generate copy that connects the emotional dots, but it can generate a report or content around factual dots. Check out and watch how they can take information like an earnings report or sporting outcomes and create very human-like copy.

There’s also the area of content creation. Can a computer watch what people view and buy and then use data to know what that consumer should be shown next? Amazon, Netflix, and Pandora are already showing us how effective this is. Why wouldn’t you want the same AI to be working on your website or other digital assets?

Who is your next buyer? This is a fascinating and sophisticated aspect of AI and marketing that many organizations have yet to explore. By using propensity modeling, predictive analysis can give you insight into who is ready to move from consideration to purchase and which of your existing customers is most likely to buy. It will also give you an idea of what kinds of offers (products, discounts, etc.) are most likely going to trigger that purchase decision.

From there, it’s an easy jump to dynamic pricing. AI would help you determine who needs a discounted price to convert and who is ready to buy without you having to give up part of your margin.

Earlier in the sales cycle, AI can help with lead scoring. The idea that a computer can sort through our prospect list and tell us where to concentrate our efforts is very appealing.

There are many industries and professions who are probably right to be a little nervous about AI. But for us marketers – AI is poised to be a huge advantage in how we work. It has the capability to help us measure and deliver ROI in a very efficient way, which allows us to spend even more time on the creativity and innovation sides of our business. Because in those spaces, we are irreplaceable.



Hire for the soft skills

June 6, 2018

hireRemember a few years ago when it was simple to hire? There were so many people that had been displaced by the recession that finding a qualified and available candidate was a piece of cake.

That is definitely not the case today. The employee shortage is real and in certain sectors, it’s a serious crisis. Not only does that make it harder to find that next vital team member but it means that every hire is even more critical because you can’t afford to make a mistake and have to start all over again.

We have all experienced the cost of a bad hire. It’s the cost of the investment you made in recruiting, interviewing, training and onboarding them. But it’s also the cost of the damage they do if they’re not as qualified as you think. The staff suffers too when you have a bad hire. Not only do they have to pick up the slack (again) while you replace the bad hire but it ripples through the fabric of your culture.

The only thing worse than a bad hire is a hire that is a bad culture fit because they don’t have the soft skills that you need. It’s easy enough to interview for and test for aptitude. It’s a completely different challenge to screen an applicant for the difficult to discern or measure traits like leadership, adaptability and how they match your culture. And yet, those are the elements that will most likely determine how successful this candidate is in your company.

Why am I talking about hiring in a marketing blog? It’s simple – your employees are your biggest marketing expense. Every day their choices, behaviors, and attitudes translate your brand into how your customers and prospects see you. There is no better insight into a business’ heart and soul than to observe its employees.

We have to interview better. We need to ask more questions that give us a peek into how the person works, rather than if they can do the work. Let’s assume you use the first 10-15 minutes of an interview to determine if the candidate is able to do the tasks of the job. (You should be doing onsite testing too but that’s a different topic.)

After they’ve cleared that hurdle, most interviewers actually go into selling mode, talking about the company and trying to woo the applicant. Avoid that temptation and instead, ask questions like these to get a read on their soft skills.

Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you’d never done before. How did you react? How did you approach it? What did you learn?

What has been the biggest change you’ve ever had to deal with? How did you adapt to that change?

What’s the most interesting or surprising thing about you that is not on your resume?

What’s the biggest misperception that coworkers might have about you and what might make them think that it’s true?

Describe a time when you were working on a team and someone on the team did not understand you. How did you know they weren’t tracking with you and what did you do?

What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make in the last six months? How did you approach it?

These are tough questions to ask and even tougher to answer. That’s the point. You’re considering setting this person loose inside your organization. They’re going to influence your team and either impress or alienate your best clients. I know it’s easier to interview with safe questions that only focus on the tasks of the job. But if you get this wrong – it’s a mistake that can cost dearly.

Ask the hard questions. Find the right brand advocate. It’s worth the effort.


CMOS — are you torn between storytelling and driving growth?

May 30, 2018

A new study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Deloitte, surveying close to 200 chief marketers worldwide, revealed many CMOs are still focused on the traditional storytelling aspect of their position and are less comfortable with aspects associated with driving growth, including acting as revenue science practitioners and customer experience architects.

According to the report, “CMOs and the Spark to Drive Growth,” 35 percent of respondents identify their role as being the chief storyteller, but only 20 percent view themselves as the market explorer that identifies and maps new routes to revenue. Additionally, just 7 percent say they are the data guru that understands the voice and expectations of the customer.

To download this study, click here.

“Sales and driving incremental revenue growth are the first steps on the path to profitability, but this is not the destination,” noted Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing for the CMO Council. “What best practice leaders have demonstrated is that ownership of experience strategy and voice of the customer must inform key business decisions, ranging from product specification and identification of market expansion and global market readiness. This will require a new mastery of data and intelligence, along with skills that cross finance and operations boundaries that most marketers feel uncomfortable and unprepared to cross.”

As today’s CMOs remain focused on brand development, customer engagement, lead management and media mix modeling, they are missing the opportunity to focus on business transformation initiatives like mapping global expansion, facilitating mergers and acquisitions, pricing strategy or actively advancing distribution channels.

Of the marketers surveyed, 82 percent believe they are the primary driver of brand development and storytelling, only half believe they own customer experience strategy development. While marketers own the brand and how it melds into engagement and communications, they are also influencers across a vast list of critical business driving functions.

The disconnects between intention to drive growth and capacity to impact the bottom line beyond new customer acquisition continue. Consider that:

68 percent of marketing leaders surveyed expect to drive and optimize growth through new customer acquisition. Only 9 percent expect to impact growth through the introduction of new engagement or distribution channels.
Marketers agree that revenue is the top measure of growth for the organization (95 percent) and for their own personal definition (70 percent). However, while the business also considers gross margin and market share as the second and third indicators of growth, marketers instead look to brand valuation and customer acquisition shifts, highlighting a disconnect in how growth is fundamentally measured.
CMOs are allied with their organizations’ president and head of sales in the development and shaping of new growth strategies, but they do far less to involve supply chain, product and operational partners—key leaders who sit at the front line of customer experience.

“What we hear from our CMO clients is that they are attempting to tackle some of their organizations toughest challenges, sometimes losing sight of keeping the customer at the center of it all,” said Sheryl Jacobson, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and CMO Customer Transformation Leader. “For the CMO to be effective, they have to keep the customer at the center of every conversation and figure out solutions that will drive growth. But then translate the strategy into the languages of their c-suite peers.”

The importance is for marketers to align their vision of success with both the customer’s vision of need and value and the business’ definition of growth and success. It will demand more than just a deep understanding of storytelling and the brand and will even transcend having an understanding of the business and the touchpoints spread across it. It will demand that marketers become cultural change agents, sparking innovation in how teams, technologies and touchpoints converge.


About the Study:
Findings of the “CMOs and the Spark to Drive Growth” study are based on a 10-question online audit of 191 global senior marketing leaders. Thirty-seven (37) percent of respondents hold the title of chief marketing officer, senior vice president of marketing or head of marketing, representing companies with revenues in excess of $1 billion USD. The 10-page whitepaper is available for download by visiting

This study is the first of three investigations into the CMO as the growth driver. Next in the series will be a summary of investigative dialogues with growth-driving CMOs, all hailing from fast-growth, sustained-growth or emerging-growth organizations. The final brief, dubbed the “CMO’s Growth-Driving Playbook,” delves into the steps and strategies that growth drivers have adopted to take a leadership position across sales enablement, customer experience and transformation of people, process and platforms across the organization.


Tread carefully on tragedy

May 30, 2018

tragedyWhen our country endures a tragedy like the Parkland shooting or a natural disaster like the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, we get completely wrapped up in the stories, the people, and the emotions. We want to show our concern, to connect with each other to mourn together and, of course, we want to do something to support the victims.

Immediately after the Parkland shooting a few months ago, we saw people changing their social media profile pictures, expressing their support and starting fundraising campaigns. Because of the nature of the tragedy we also saw a flurry of conversation about gun control, mental health and other social issues that played a role in the shooting.

As a country, we were horrified, afraid, angry, sad and struggling with our feelings of helplessness. We expressed all of those reactions for many days following the shooting.

My guess is that if your social media channels are like mine, some people expressed themselves more eloquently than others. And some, it seemed, just talked to talk, as if they didn’t want to be left out.

But the people who really touched my heart and inspired me were the ones who didn’t say very much but they did something. They donated blood or shared a link to a site collecting donations. They found a way to help and quietly did so.

Brands can probably take a lesson from that observation. After all, organizations hurt and feel compassion in the same way we do. They want to express their support as well. After all, they’re just big groups of people.

Much like our friends and family – some companies express their support better than others. There’s a thin line between solidarity and trying to capitalize on a tragedy to position your brand/organization in a good light.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s very bad form for any organization to use a crisis or tragedy as a marketing tactic. But you sure don’t want your well-intentioned gesture or words to be labeled as self-serving or an attempt to capitalize on a tragedy.

If your company wants to conduct itself in a way that’s above reproach, follow these guidelines.

Say very little, do something meaningful: JetBlue offered free flights to/from Parkland, FL for the families of the victims while Delta Airlines offered free flights to the Washington, D.C. march that many victims and their families attended. Local restaurants donated food feeding the family and friends of the victims and the injured at hospitals, churches and at their homes. Organizations like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Macy’s, AutoNation and Cigna all donated hundreds of thousands of dollars without any fanfare.

Mourn together: Nickelodeon and MTV – the networks of legions of children and teenagers – went off the air for 17 minutes to honor those killed in the Parkland shooting.

Show your support: Many companies and entities lowered their flags to half-staff and donned ribbons in the colors of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School – maroon and white.

Help others offer a helping hand: Professionals United for Parkland – an all-volunteer group of more than 250 licensed mental health workers provided free counseling via their referral hotline 24/7 for as long as necessary to anyone in South Florida affected by the shooting.

These companies all showed their compassion and humanity. It’s worth noting that none of their gestures required a lot of talk. In times of tragedy and when people are hurting, actions definitely speak louder than words.


Gated content

May 23, 2018

gated contentWhether you recognize the term or not – you’ve all seen and many of you have created gated content. That term refers to putting something on your website or landing page that people want and asking them for information in exchange for that information.

In most cases, you are asking people for their email address and allowing them to pass through the “gate” to a hidden web page where they can download the information that you’re offering. An alternative is that you would email them the information once you have their email address.

The challenge with gated content is that you need to offer something that has great value if you want people to actually trade you information about them in exchange. The question is how many fields should you require. Studies show that the more information fields required, the fewer people you will get to actually complete the transaction. The best practice rule of thumb is no more than three fields if you want a higher conversation rate.

Every field is another barrier you are asking the person to knock down to get to your content. You are asking them to work harder and risk their anonymity with every field. They assume, for example, that if they include a phone number – you’re going to call. They have to decide if what you’re offering is worth that intrusion.

It makes sense that you would want to build a database of people who genuinely have some interest in your company or offerings. And on the surface, it makes sense that you would reduce the number of fields so more people actually finish the task and get the item you are offering in exchange.

But there’s a weird inverse relationship in this kind of marketing. As the number of people who complete the form increases, the amount of information you have on them and the more you can confidently say they are a qualified lead diminishes. Why? More hurdles to leap mean you are in essence, testing the audience to see how badly they want what you’re offering.

Remember, the more you ask them in the form, the fewer completions you will get. But the fewer things you ask, the less you know about your leads.

So when considering whether or not you should create gated content, the first question you need to ask yourself is “why are we doing this?” If you are looking for qualified sales leads then you should actually use more fields. You will get a smaller group of people who actually complete the form and access your information, but you’ll know they really want it. You will also have gathered enough information about them to get a sense of how strong a lead they are.

On the flip side, if you are just trying to build up your database so you can keep marketing to the audience, then reduce the number of fields to increase participation. But you have to accept that many of the people, especially if you just require an email address and nothing more, may not have much actual interest in your product or service.

The length of your form not only reflects the value of what you’re offering but it also reflects the genuine interest of the prospect. A shorter form will get you a larger database that you can market to down the road. But there will be a lot of tire kickers on that list. A longer form that tells you more about the prospect and what they’re interested in. The additional questions will reduce the size of the database but will increase the likelihood of a genuine potential sale being among them.

So as always with marketing – start with why.


Convenience is in the eye of the beholder

May 16, 2018

convenienceI have a message for you from your customers. This is something they want you to know: “I don’t really care how you would like me to communicate with you. I want you to offer me the choice so we can communicate according to my needs. Don’t make me call you. Don’t make me visit your website. Don’t make me send a carrier pigeon. Don’t ask me to make it easy for you. I’m giving you my business so I need you to tailor your communication channels to the way I want to work with you.” Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? And yet most businesses still define how their clients can access them. We create convenience but the truth is – it’s based on what is convenient for us.

I have a friend who was communicating with his bank through the bank app’s chat function.  As he was wrapping up the chat, the representative told him that he would need to call the toll free number to accomplish his task.  He asked the person he was already dealing with “Can’t you just call me so that I don’t have to start all over again with someone new?” The bank’s rep told him he could not because their chat application is on a different system than their voice system.  Bottom line – the customer had to be inconvenienced and frustrated because the bank’s system was dictating how he had to communicate.

A new era of consumer expectations is here and we need to be ready for them. They are more informed and connected. They fully expect to be in complete control when making purchase decisions. How many times do you see people walking through the aisles of a store with a hand-held device so they can comparison shop, check out product reviews and reach out to their social media connections for recommendations in real time?

Having multiple ways for people to contact you (multi-channel) isn’t enough anymore. What your consumers want is the ability to shift seamlessly from channel to channel (omni-channel) without having to repeat themselves at every turn.

Even if you don’t sell a single thing online and don’t list any of your prices on your website – understand how this impacts you. The retail experience is defining what is possible and very soon, B-to-B consumers are going to expect the same seamless transition from channel to channel. Convenience is king.

Don’t think this is something you can ignore based on how you sell. Omni-channel is much more than sales. It is also about delighting your customers in person, connecting seamlessly between in-person conversations via social, mobile and the web on how they want to communicate.

While price will always be a factor, the currency you really need to be mindful of is your client’s time and convenience. If it’s a hassle to communicate with you, it’s just too easy to take for them to take their business elsewhere. According to a recent report from Oracle, customers aren’t giving us much of a grace period before they go to our competitor. The report said that as many as 89% of consumers will begin doing business with a competitor after one poor customer experience and even worse – they will not grant the offending business an opportunity to redeem themselves.

Your first step – ask. Ask your customers how they want to communicate with you. For many businesses, just evolving to a multi-channel solution that allows your clients to define how and when they want to talk to you is a good first step. As you develop your multi-channel solutions, be mindful of the evolution to omni-channel so you can build in the functionality as you take those first baby steps.



10 years later — CMOs are still struggling to generate more income from existing customers

May 15, 2018

Despite a mandate to drive growth, chief marketers are still stuck in a decade-long rut that has yet to see them fully optimize the lifetime value of existing customers. In 2008, when asked if brands were fully realizing the revenue potential of customers, 76 percent said no. Ten years later, 77 percent of respondents to the same question in a new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council audit still say no, and 10 percent say they are not even sure.

This failure to capitalize on customer revenue potential does not come as a surprise as the majority of marketers are missing an opportunity to leverage opt-in, triggered communications, including transactional email, to further relationships with customers. According to the latest study by the CMO Council and communication management platform Sendwithus, just 36 percent of respondents are leveraging transactional emails as an opportunity to further the value of relationships. While 30 percent believe they are engaging through triggered emails, it is only to reaffirm or acknowledge a past transaction, not to intentionally develop a more meaningful customer relationship. This occurs despite 94 percent of respondents’ belief that delivery of personalized communications across all customer touchpoints is critical to achieving profitable customer experiences.

The new report, titled “Gaining Traction With Every Digital Interaction,” reveals that collaboration around the channels of choice for the customer is critical to turning an automated touchpoint into a revenue-producing opportunity. According to 34 percent of marketers, transactional emails are not leveraged as a relationship and revenue driver because they are created outside of marketing, with little opportunity to collaborate or align across functional areas.

Following the inability to collaborate and align as a roadblock to success, meetings and manual processes emerge as additional gaps between the growth strategy and real-time delivery. When asked to detail the state of collaboration across key stakeholders in customer experience, 29 percent of marketers reveal that collaboration comes in the form of meetings to align on strategies and timelines while 26 percent say that collaboration is left to team leaders who collect input and feedback as needed.

Marketers plan to realize revenue through key strategies to optimize profitable relationships. Among the top strategies are personalizing communications across all touchpoints (64 percent) and identifying new ways to improve upsell and cross-sell opportunities for existing customers (64 percent). Marketers will also commit to continuous cycles of testing with the specific goal of improving individual communications to create more contextual and relevant experiences while 26 percent have committed to better leveraging opt-in communications like transactional emails.

The report is based on research conducted by the CMO Council though an online audit, which collected insights from 179 senior marketing leaders in the early months of 2018. Some 43 percent of respondents represent organizations with revenues more than $500 million USD per year, with 38 percent holding titles of CMO, senior vice president of marketing or head of marketing.

The 25-page white paper also includes an investigation into how only 13 percent of marketers feel they are fully exploiting customer revenue opportunity strategies and engaging differently, including how these leaders are driving deeper relationships, collaborating across stakeholders and leveraging data to uncover new opportunities and options for engagement. To download the complimentary strategic brief, click here.


A delicate balance

May 9, 2018

balanceIn the Mad Men days of advertising, it was all about mass media, reach and frequency. How many people can you reach and how often can you get your message in front of them? Today’s marketing is a little more complicated than that. The channels have shifted from print, radio, and TV to more than we can count and within each medium, there are more individual channels than our forefathers in the business could have ever imagined.  Today, it is all about balance.

Back in the day, the advertisers controlled not only the message but also the distribution channels. The formula used to be simple – it took 8-12 exposures to a marketing message for the audience to take notice.

Today, as marketers who also serve as publishing organizations, you aren’t bound by those constraints. When you own the enewsletter or Twitter account or control your direct mail schedule – you aren’t beholden to just a budget dictating how often you communicate. It’s still just as important, but now you have other elements (like the fact that your audience is also creating content about your brand) to factor in.

Frequency is a delicate balance. You have to communicate often enough that you stay relevant but not so often that you’re annoying. Here are some best practices for you to consider as you map out your communications.

Enewsletters: If it is packed with breaking news or super current content, then your audience will be okay with a weekly publication. On the flip side, if it’s bite-sized (300 words or less) then once a week is probably okay too. If it’s a mix of helpful information and a smidgeon about you, monthly is plenty. But anything less frequent than that is probably not enough to be something your audience counts on.

Email marketing: These are the emails you send when you are hosting an event, have a sale or are promoting something new. You can send the same (or similar) content out 3-5 times over the course of a couple weeks. But then you need to give your audience a rest. You shouldn’t bombard them with a flight of emails every month or your open rates will plummet.

Social posts (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc): Once or twice a day is good as long as it’s about them and not about you. These are not channels where repeating the same thing over and over again is advised.

Twitter: Twitter is a unique animal. Because the feed moves so quickly, if someone doesn’t see it real time, odds are they are not seeing it at all. So it’s okay to re-tweet the same message multiple times during the day. If you want a global audience, don’t forget to schedule your tweets on a full 24-hour cycle.

Blog posts: If you’re not adding new content aimed at being helpful every week, odds are you are not growing your audience. But for most organizations, blogging is more about influencing the search engines. If you’re blogging more for SEO purposes, every two weeks is a reasonable rhythm.

Traditional media: Odds are, your budget is going to control this one and you’ll have to be choosy about where you appear to get enough frequency. Having a greater presence in one or two channels (a print pub and a radio station for example) is much smarter than being a mile wide and an inch deep. Media mix is very valuable if you can afford it. But if it simply dilutes your exposure, it’s hurting more than it is helping.

Every audience is unique. While these are helpful guidelines, you’re going to want to experiment with your specific audience to see what the optimum frequency balance is for them.



Do your actions match your words?

May 2, 2018

actionsMost organizations talk a good game but just like with people, our non-verbal cues or actions often tell the real story. We are out there, creating content, advertising, encouraging word of mouth referrals, running specials or inviting prospects to let us give them a free assessment – but do we really want their business?

What does our “body” say? Do you signal that you’re really ready to welcome new clients or does your behavior suggest something different? Let me give you a concrete example.

Our clients take me all over the country which means I am on a lot of planes. I fly in and out of the DSM airport over 100 times a year. They are always advertising that it’s better to fly out of DSM than drive to another airport. They have signage up, telling us how glad they are to serve us. They chase after the airlines to either start flying (Southwest) or add routes (all the others).

So if we just pay attention to their words – they want to provide excellent service to even more Central Iowa travelers and they want to cater to the frequent business traveler.

But their body language says something else.

  1. It’s almost impossible to try to use their long-term parking garage without it being full or half of it being shut down for repairs. The last two times I flew, one of the towers/elevators was down which meant people had to lug their luggage to the tower at the other end of the parking ramp.
  2. The shops and restaurants are understaffed and slow. If anything, they keep reducing menus options and shopping choices, not adding to them.
  3. The TSA pre-check line is rarely staffed which means there’s no advantage to having pre-check. Yes, you stand in a different line, but it is serviced by the same agent that the other line is – you just take turns. Don’t get me wrong, taking turns is fine but don’t promise expedited service if you can’t deliver on it.

I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for every one of their choices – but marketing and customer service isn’t rational. When we feel someone’s indifference – even if it’s justified in their mind, the marketing words seem almost insulting, don’t they? It’s like they’re playing us for fools.

Actions speak much louder than any marketing message ever could. How you treat a customer trumps how you talk to a customer.

Does your organization’s body language match your marketing words?

How responsive are you? Do you have a response mechanism (comment box, contact us, social media links) on your website? Do you monitor it? How quickly do you respond? Who handles those responses and how equipped are they to answer the questions being posed?

When someone tweets you or leaves a review – do you even see it? Do you respond, even if the review is not favorable?

If you haven’t tested your team’s responsiveness lately – it’s probably overdue.

Do you make it easy? Remember that today our most precious and scarce resource is our time. People aren’t multitasking; they’re hyper-juggling. And when you inconvenience a customer, limit their access to those conveniences, or miss a deadline — it’s actually worse. It’s like mean teasing. People don’t miss what you never offer or don’t have, but they notice very quickly when you promise easy or on-time and then make it difficult or late.

Do an audit. Ask your team – how do we bend over backward to make working with us easy and convenient? How could we be even better and before you promise it – make sure you can sustain it.

There’s no better marketing spend than over-servicing your current customers. Start with your actions and you won’t have to say a word.


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