Your customer’s point of view – walk a mile in their shoes

August 17, 2016

customer's point of view

Sometimes, I think the best marketing advice I can give someone is before you say it, do it, print it, record it or announce it – find a way to see it from your customer’s point of view.

Many times, we get so caught up in our own world that we make the false assumption that everyone in the world sees and experiences things exactly as we do. When I say it that way, you shake your head and say, “No, I recognize that there are many different viewpoints.” Intellectually that may be true but when you’re scrambling to get some marketing element done and out there – you very quickly forget that reality.

Let me give you a few examples:

When your voicemail system invites me to hit zero at any time to talk to a real, live human being – do not send my calls to someone’s voicemail. Let me talk to a human. (Technology should make it easier to talk to you, not more difficult.)

When I unsubscribe to your enewsletter – do not take me to your sales page. Take me to a page that confirms that I’ve unsubscribed. (I want to be reassured that you got my message, not pitched a product.)

When I interrupt your uninvited sales call with a polite, “I’m not interested,” – do not keep talking. Gracefully accept my answer and say goodbye. (If you aren’t good at cold calling, don’t do it unless you want to alienate the prospect.)

Are you shaking your head at the silly people who do the above? You would never do something so dumb, right? How about any of these:

When I walk into your store, don’t have your sales people swarm me from all angles, talking to me about everything I touch. (There’s a fine line between helpful and hovering. Most sales people have not been taught the difference.)

When you send a media release out, don’t call or email the reporter to see if they got it. If they want to cover the story, they’ll call you. (Just because you think its news, doesn’t mean they have to agree.)

When you get a new fan/follower on social media, don’t send them a bunch of direct messages or sales pitches. Ask them questions, share helpful tips and be interested in them. (Social isn’t for sales, it’s for helping/sharing.)

When someone signs up for your helpful ebook, cheat sheet or infographic, don’t follow that up with an email inviting them to speak to a salesperson. That’s like going from “can I buy you a drink” to “will you marry me” in five minutes. (Cultivate a lead by being so valuable and helpful that they can’t imagine not having access to you before you put your hand in their pocket.)

I’ve personally been the victim of every one of the blunders I just listed and I am betting that you have too. Bad marketing is everywhere and much of it boils down to bad manners. Honestly, I think all of them could have been avoided if the marketing team had simply said to themselves – “Would I want to be treated this way?”

Marketing should always be created with the prospect in mind. Ask yourself these questions before you launch anything.

Will our audience:

  • Find this useful/helpful?
  • Be inspired or encouraged by this?
  • Feel like we understand them and their world?
  • Pass this onto someone else?
  • Learn something or be reminded of something important?
  • See a new opportunity or a solution to a challenge they’re having?
  • Be grateful we communicated this?

If you can’t answer yes to all or most of those questions, then ask this final question:

Why would I think this is going to be effective?


Are you ready to hug your haters?

June 8, 2016

Hug Your HatersHug your haters? Who wants to embrace those who serve up bad reviews, slam you in social or pepper your website with complaints?

If you’re smart — you do.

Back in the good old days, if you were disappointed in product or a company’s service, you wrote them a terse letter or if you were really steamed — you’d call their 800 number.

And then you’d wait. And wait.

Today, if something goes awry — odds are you’re going to grab your smart phone. You might snap a picture and post it on Facebook with a scathing commentary. Or you might go to Yelp, Expedia, or some other review site and share your experience.

You might take to Twitter to ask for some help from whoever is manning their Twitter feed, if anyone is.

But odds are, what you won’t do is stay silent.

According to Jay Baer’s new (and brilliant book) Hug Your Haters, there are two kinds of haters out there.

If we want action on a problem, we’re offstage haters. We prefer to talk privately one-to-one to resolve an issue. We pick up the phone. We send an email. We meet in person.

If we want an audience, we’re onstage haters who are quick to publicly shame on social media.

“In the same way that bumper stickers are the most shallow form of political expression, social media grousing is the thinnest form of customer complaints,” says Baer. “Though onstage haters may not expect a reply, they definitely desire an audience,” says Baer. “That’s why they raise the stakes and take grievances to a public forum.”

Dealing with these public and private complaints is the next frontier of marketing. The truth is that most companies do very little, if anything. Which costs them customers, dollars and their reputation. Customer service has become a spectator sport and we can’t afford not to get into the game.

Baer, the book and the research that the book is base don all say the same thing:

Answer every complaint, in every channel, every time. Admittedly, it’s not easy to hug your haters. It takes cultural alignment, resource allocation, speed, a thick skin and an unwavering belief that complaints are an opportunity.

Answer your onstage haters publicly because the opinions of onlookers are the real prize.

Don’t make it your goal to have the final word at all costs. Respond no more than twice to an onstage hater and then move on. “Violating the Rule of Reply Only Twice can drag you down into a vortex of negativity and hostility, and it’s also a waste of your time,” says Baer.

And offer to resolve the issue offline with your onstage hater. It’s tough to solve a complex problem with 140 characters on Twitter.  You also don’t want anyone sharing personal information in full view of your digital onlookers.
So if you’re a business owner who’s not on social media, start paying attention to what’s being said about you and be ready to respond.  Hug, and never mug, your onstage haters. They’re playing to the crowd and so should you.

How you respond will differentiate your company from all the businesses that stay silent or have no clue what’s being said online, says Baer. “In today’s world, meaningful differences between businesses are rarely rooted in price or product, but instead in customer experience. Hugging your haters gives you the chance to turn lemons into lemonade, morph bad news into good and keep the customers you already have. So few companies hug their haters that those that make the commitment are almost automatically differentiated and noteworthy when compared to their competitors.”

The book is packed with real life examples from companies of all sizes and a ton of data based on research Jay did with partners Edison Research. Jay also reached out to many other thought leaders to get their take.

The truth is — this is a daunting time for us as business leaders and marketers. Evolving your culture to respond to every comment, complaint and review is a whole new landscape for all of us. But the consequences of not doing are even more daunting.

Luckily for you — I have five copies of Jay’s book Hug Your Haters to give away. AND for one lucky winner — I have a pair of Hug Your Hater socks. To be eligible to win the book/socks — leave a comment.


Referrals don’t happen by accident

April 26, 2016

Referrals: do you really want them?Referrals don’t happen by accident. When I talk to some small business owners they proudly tell me that most of their new customers come to them via referrals. And I congratulate them – there’s no better marketing than having a customer rave about your work.

But relying on your customers to decide that they’re going to actively recruit new clients for you is probably not a brilliant marketing plan.

Think of a product or service that you really like and use regularly. Okay – now, how many people did you talk to today about that product or service? How about yesterday?

For our example, let’s pretend this product/service that you love is your barber. It’s not that you don’t love him. But you have other things going on in your world. So unless someone mentions they’re looking for a new barber or compliments your hair, odds are, you aren’t going to mention your barber. Even though you are a raving fan.

Your clients are the same way. They may love what you do but most days, they’re not thinking about you or telling other people about you. So does that mean growing your business by referrals is a bad thing? No – it just means you can’t leave it to fate or your customer’s undying love. You have to give referrals a helping hand.

Want to figure out how to boost referrals, try one (or more) of these ideas:

Throw an exclusive party: Create an event that your best customers would love to attend. Not like – but love. I’m talking take a day off work to go if they had to kind of love. Send them an invitation and explain that it’s an exclusive event – that only your best customers are being invited. But, as a special thank you for their business – they can invite one guest. The only caveat is the guest cannot be a current customer.

Promise them that they’ll be no sales pitch or selling. You just want to meet more people like them and you want them to be able to share this cool event with someone. Now, you’ve got a buzz worthy event which will generate its own word of mouth marketing and your best customers are walking prospects right to your door.

Love them: At MMG, many years ago we created our own holiday called Who Loves Ya Baby Day. (A hat tip to Telly Savalas in his Kojak days). On that day, which happens to be Valentine’s Day – we shower our clients with love. We let them know how much we value them and their trust in us. We create a special card to thank them and literally to say that we love them. Because we do.

In your own way – you need to let your customers know that they’re more than a buck in the cash register to you. Create something that overtly expresses your affection for them in a way that they can’t help but talk about.

Be shareable smart: Everyone wants to be helpful and be perceived as being on top of their game. Become a reliable resource of useful insights and information for your customers. Send them tools (e-newsletter, infographics, tip sheets, etc.) that they can and will pass along to their peers because of their value. Then, without even meaning to, they’re referring people to you with each share.

Which, of course, means what you send them has to be truly valuable, not self-serving. No one is going to pass along your sales flier or promotional materials. The added advantage of this tactic is not only do you get the referral but your content also reinforces the message that you really know your stuff.

Referrals are an incredibly valuable way to grow your business. But even your biggest fans need a little nudge.


Let your customers help you make it memorable

February 9, 2016

let your customers helpIn last week’s post we explored the importance of creating a memorable experience for your customers. Today’s customers are one click away from finding someone else to meet their needs which means you need to knock them dead every time.

While your competitors can match your prices, copy your products or services and even hire away your staff but they can’t replicate a unique customer experience. The question, of course, is – exactly what would that experience be?

The good news is we’re not talking about erecting a circus tent and putting on a show. We’re talking about making doing business with you simple, fast and without any hiccups – all flavored with your brand’s essence.

Here’s the best part. Your customers will help you craft the experience they want most. If you let them.

Get smarter: The first step is to listen, learn and share what you’ve discovered. You need to gather information about your offerings and your clients. In terms of your offerings, you need to anticipate what your prospects and customers might need to know. You also need to anticipate what your employees might need to know as they serve your customers.

You also need to capture as much information as possible about your customers. The best source? You guessed it — your customers. Start talking to them more. Find out what they worry about. Find out why they do or don’t buy for the second time. What would make it twice as easy to do business with you? These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking.

Another way to learn from your customers is to observe how they interact with every portal into your company. Where do they go on your website? What do they ask when they call or email? What size, feature or option do they gravitate towards?

Equip your team to deliver: This is one of the spots that constantly trips up companies.   The leadership team or marketing department put together new processes or policies but the details don’t ever trickle down to the front line staff. They’re expected to seamlessly deliver a remarkable experience but it’s news to them.

Better yet – let your front line team help you make the experience better. No one has more encounters with your clients so make sure their voice is part of the mix. Here’s the rub. No matter what you create, it won’t be quite right at first.  This is where your customer facing team is most important.   They’ll be the ones who can detect the flaws and suggest improvements.

All of this is only going to work if you invest enough time up front to get all the input from all levels of the organization and that you also build a feedback mechanism that allows you to gather reactions and issues so you adjust.

Wrap it with your brand: Making it easier to do business with you is one thing. And it’s an important thing. But what makes the customer experience you create genuine and something so unique that your competitors can’t mimic it is putting your brand’s stamp on every aspect of the encounter.

What does that look like? Look in the mirror. Is your company very buttoned up and serious about security? Are you playful and tongue in cheek? Do you have elaborate systems and processes? Think about how your customer perceives your organization. Identify what drew your best customers to you in the first place and figure out how to weave that throughout all your interactions.

Creating an experience that makes your customer feel valued, appreciated and heard is a powerful way to not only create customers for life but customers who can’t help but bring their friends along.


What clear signals do you suppose you’re missing?

August 8, 2012

I had a few little electrical projects that needed to be done around the house. So I turned to my Angie’s List favorites.

Once I found the right business, I had an array of choices in terms of how I wanted to connect with them.  I clicked on the email icon and jotted a quick note, describing exactly what I needed to have fixed.

Within a few hours the electrician emailed me back with this message: “Sounds good Drew, give me a call to discuss.”

Um, no.  I didn’t accidentally click on the email icon.  I made a conscious choice.  It’s not that I am anti-phone.  Heck…ask AT&T how pro-phone I am.  But, during business hours, I just don’t have time to talk to him.  I’m in meetings, on the phone with clients and on the run.  Which is why I emailed him to begin with.

What could have been an easy sale is now tangled up because he didn’t pay attention to the very clear signal I sent.  I don’t have time to call him…so odds are, the work just won’t get done for a little while.  A lost sale.

What clear signals do you suppose you’re missing?

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When you set the bar — better keep your eye on it

March 20, 2012

In almost every category, there’s a champion.

Apple, Harley Davidson and of course…Disney. Each of these brands set the bar. They’ve defined excellence and their competitors struggle to catch up.

They are the gold standard.

An enviable position to be sure. Or is it?

Last week, we spent our Spring Break in Orlando.  If you’re a regular reader — you know this is not new territory for me.  In fact, I’ve been to Walt Disney World at least once a year since it opened in 1971.  It’s a magical place for me and no one is more pro Disney than me.

One of the elements of Disney that I love the most is their commitment to customer service.  They call it Disney friendly and it is something to behold.  (They even have an institute dedicated to teaching it to others)  We love catching Disney cast members creating what we’ve deemed “a Disney moment.”  A kid licks the ice cream right out of his cone.  A cast member runs and gets him a new cone.  A room is not ready when promised.  A cast member gives the entire party free passes to the parks.  A reservation is messed up.  Cast members send up a beautiful chocolate Mickey.

But lately — we’ve noticed fewer and fewer Disney moments.  In fact, we’ve noticed that Disney cast members are behaving more and more like ordinary employees.  I don’t know if it’s because they’re running leaner on staff or if they’ve cut back on the training — but somewhere along the way, some of the cast members have forgotten that while it’s a regular work day for them, it’s a dream of a lifetime day for the guest in front of them.

Seems like the bar is slipping a little.  At the same time, Disney’s competitors, chiefly Universal Studios and Sea World are stepping up their game.  We crossed over to the dark side and visited Universal Studios (we wanted to see the Harry Potter park) this trip.  I don’t know if they stole Disney’s best employees or just their best training program — but the Universal employees couldn’t have been more exceptional.  They were delivering “disney moments” left and right.  The theme parks were nothing extraordinary — Disney still has them beat there, but from an experience point of view — the little guys have been learning from the champ and are starting to clean their clock.

What’s the marketing lesson in all of this for us?

If you are the market leader and you’ve defined excellence — you have everything to lose.  You cannot sit on your laurels.  You need to find ways to keep the passion for delivering that excellence alive and well in your employees.  You have not only set the bar but you’ve set your customer’s expectations.

I’m no longer surprised by Disney moments… I expect them.  And while I still enjoy seeing them, they’re a given for me.  So when they are not there — it is a deficit that I notice.  And it is a deficit that gets talked about.  (Bad word of mouth)

If you’re not the market leader — the lesson is — keep pushing.  The guy in the front of the pack may grow weary or hit some sort of bump that will allow you to surge ahead of them.  Don’t assume you can’t have that lead position.  When you over-deliver, it is a surprise and delights your customers.  And it will get talked about.  (Good word of mouth)

If you set the bar — mind the bar.  It’s yours to keep or lose.  And how that plays out is completely up to you.


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Don’t add frill until your core is rock solid

February 2, 2012

A couple times a month a cleaning company comes into our house and does a deep clean.

Every time I walk into the house after they’ve cleaned… the toilet paper rolls and tissues sticking out of the boxes are folded in some sort of origami art.  Sometimes, they leave a truffle on the kitchen counter.

I get what they’re trying to do.  And it’s a lovely little extra.  Unfortunately, I also find things like:

  • Every waste basket in the wrong spot (they’ve been cleaning the house for over a year)
  • The back door unlocked or a window left open
  • A few lights left on
  • Bathroom area rugs still hanging on the door (where they put it while they cleaned the floor)
  • Cleaning supplies left in random places because they forgot to pack them up

The net result?  I walk around the house, fixing what is wrong and being frustrated that these simple things can’t be mastered.  It’s not that the house isn’t clean — it’s that they don’t care enough to do a final walk through and put the house back in order.

And when I see the origami art — I think “if they can take the time to fold my Kleenex, why can’t they take the time to put the rug back on the floor?”  I suspect that’s not the reaction they’re going for.

Here’s the lesson for all of us.  Everyone is looking to include some value add into their offerings.  But you can’t do that if you’re not already knocking it out of the park on your basic services/product.

You can put lipstick on a pig…but that doesn’t change the fact that underneath is still a pig. Before you add any window dressing — do a tune up in these boring, mundane but necessary areas:

  • Billing/Invoicing
  • Production schedules/On time delivery
  • Customer service — access to real people
  • Operations — do you do what you say you’ll do when and how you said you’d do it?
  • Ease of use — are you easy to do business with (functioning website, phone gets answered etc.)
There’s nothing wrong with going above and beyond to make your customers feel special.  But that effort can backfire on you if you don’t have your ducks in a row.  No one can enjoy the little perks if they’re not getting what they paid for in the first place.


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Customer service case study from Jeff the cabbie

September 18, 2011

… meet Jeff the marketing professor!

From on outset, I knew this was going to be a different sort of cab ride.  I walked out of the hotel and just like it has happened hundreds of times before…magically, the taxi appeared.

But from that moment on, it wasn’t a ride, it was an experience!

The bellman put my suitcase in the trunk as I got into the back seat.  The driver immediately turned around in his seat and extended his hand.  As we shook hands, he introduced himself and asked what kind of music I liked.

I told him to surprise me and he suggested some Carlos Santana because “you can’t help but feel joyful if you’re listening to Santana.”

As we headed towards the airport — my marketing lesson continued.  Jeff got a call (like cab drivers always do) but quickly told his wife he had to go because he was chatting with his new friend Drew.

He proudly pointed out to me that his taxi was a Lincoln Town Car and as I commented on how the leather glistened, he explained that he wipes down the interior a few times a day to keep it like new.

In the course of the conversation he gave me  his business card with his cell phone number on it.  He invited me to call and pre-schedule with him next time I was in St. Louis.  He told me that most of his fares were by referral or repeat business.  I’m not surprised.

When we got to the airport, he not only got my bag out of the trunk, but he carried it to the airport’s door.  We said goodbye with another handshake.

I bet it won’t surprise you that he received more than a healthy tip from me.  And I suspect that’s the case with most of his fares.

What are the takeaways from Professor Jeff?

People do business the people: It’s hard to imagine a less random choice than hailing a cab.  Whoever is first in line is who you choose.  But Jeff made sure he wasn’t some random cabbie to me.  He went out of his way to become a person — and a person I liked.  Next time I am headed to St. Louis, I will be calling Jeff.

It’s all about the customer: Jeff made me feel like he actually cared that I was in his cab.  He called me by my name.  He didn’t talk on his cell phone but instead, stayed engaged with me.  He invited me to partake in the music selection and we chatted for the entire 30 minute drive.

Appearances do matter: His cab was immaculate, inside and out.  He was dressed neatly and he had a warm and genuine smile on his face.  You honestly couldn’t help but enjoy doing business with him.

I’d bet that Jeff never took a single marketing course. (He was a cop for 25 years before becoming a cab driver) He probably doesn’t have a brand manual, a tagline or a company vision statement.

But he understood customer service better than many companies that have all three.

And if you’re ever headed to St. Louis, let me know.  I’ll hook you up with my buddy Jeff, so you can get some marketing schooling!

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THE best customer service tip ever

August 31, 2011

… stellar customer service = pinky swearing

I’m going to tell you THE secret to incredible customer service, customer retention and word of mouth referrals.

It’s quite complicated so you’ll want to print off this post and hang it somewhere where you can refer to it every day.

If you’ve got music playing or some other distraction around you — turn it off/put it away so you can fully concentrate on the concept I am about to unveil before your very eyes.


Pinky Swear.

When we were kids, if you pinky swore — that was a blood oath, a die or do it sort of thing.  There were no asterisks, exceptions, small type or exclusions.  It was a pinky swear. Enough said.

If you want your customers to rave about you and to come back time and time again — pinky swear.

If you are so old that you don’t remember pinky swearing — let me translate it for you.

Do what you say you’re going to do.  Every time.  No exceptions.

Go forth….and pinky swear.  Your customers will love you for it.


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Marketing tip #83: You really can’t make the horse drink

August 26, 2011

You can’t make a customer buy!

Here’s an uncomfortable marketing truth:  With few exceptions, you cannot control potential buyers.

No matter how great your product, how spectacular your price or how unparalleled your customer service reputation — if they aren’t ready to buy, they just are not ready to buy.

Yes, as the old adage says — you can lead them to the water.  But once you get them there, you only have two choices.  Try to force their head into the water or entice them to hang out by the water trough until they’re actually thirsty.

And trust me, if you’ve spent any time around horses or a stubborn prospect, you know that you cannot force their head into the water.  No matter how badly you’d like to!

Sadly, to stay with the analogy — most companies don’t have any carrots or sugar cubes at the ready.   Which means their “horse” wanders away.  And by the time they’re ready to buy — probably has wandered to someone else’s watering trough.

I see so many companies that can get a prospect in the door but if they don’t buy that instant, have no way of staying in touch, creating a relationship or keeping under the prospect’s nose until it’s the right time for them to buy.

Imagine this scenario: Someone who would be the perfect sweet spot customer called today and chatted with you on the phone for 15 minutes but wasn’t ready to buy — what would you do/say to keep them connected to you until they were ready to buy?

Could you hold their interest for a month?  6 months?  3 years?

If you didn’t have an answer or don’t think you could keep them around the water trough for as long as you need — you are letting sales walk out your door.

So…now what?



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