What happened to grace?

September 18, 2019

I love social media and the whole concept of access that it’s brought to the forefront. Ten years ago consumers had no idea how to get a company’s attention. Sure, they could call the 800 number or write to “customer service” at the company’s corporate headquarters but neither was very reliable. Even if the company did respond, it was usually too late to resolve the issue.

Social media changed all of that. All of a sudden, CEOs, Marketing Directors and Customer Service reps were all over Facebook and Twitter and not only were they there but they were responding when customers reached out.

Many organizations have invested a serious amount of time, money and human resources to create a customer service portal using social media networks as their medium of choice. Odds are pretty good that you’ve interacted with a company this way. And I am hoping that odds are – you and your company have explored how to use this concept to connect with your own customers as well.

Access is smart marketing. When someone feels like you are making yourself available to them, it triggers a sense of belonging and tells them that they matter to you. We know this isn’t a passing fad – it’s how we communicate now. Remember about five years ago when the buzz was about how digital platforms like social media have shifted communication from a monologue to a dialogue? Today that’s old news. We’ve adopted these new networks, tools, and apps and for many of us, we can’t remember how we communicated before they arrived.

But as we’ve adopted these new tools, we’ve developed some really ugly habits. I’m concerned that these new trends could discourage organizations from using social media to reach out. Because when they do – they get their hand slapped.

What I’m talking about is the complete lack of grace that seems to be prevalent in all social networks. People don’t get annoyed; they seem to move immediately to rage. People don’t disagree; they escalate to vehemently oppose. And when it comes to dealing with companies online, even the smallest slight triggers a social media blood bath.

Maybe it’s fueled by the arm’s length anonymity, but people seem to go to an extreme place much faster online than they do in person. The slightest transgressions trigger reactions that feel very reactionary and extreme. It seems like we’ve lost the ability to offer others a little grace. Every organization is going to screw up. Why can’t we start with the assumption that they’re doing their best and cut them a little slack?

If you find yourself on the end of an extreme reaction, here are some things you can do to gain control of the situation.

Apologize: I think many times people over-react when they think the company in question doesn’t care or isn’t empathetic to their situation. Using the words “I’m sorry” or “I can understand how frustrating this is for you” can go a long way to defusing someone’s anger.

Take it offline: Ask to move the conversation to the phone or when possible, in person. Having to speak to someone directly will often take some of the harshness out of the conversation. It also demonstrates to everyone else who is watching the interaction that you’re very willing to try to fix things when they go wrong.

So yes – there are some things you can do to calm the storm as the company being attacked, but I am hoping there’s even more we can all do as human beings to tamp down this trend. When you see it among your family and friends – call it out and help calm it down.

Civility matters and everyone deserves a little grace.


Stop selling, start helping

July 10, 2019

sellingA while back, we explored some of the key takeaways from a content marketing trends report produced by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and I identified some trends worthy of more in-depth exploration. They included:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2 content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

Most recently, we talked about the importance and power of personas when they are done well, with actual data to augment your own customer knowledge and insights. Today, we’re going to tackle the second bullet, which is all about understanding what kinds of content are useful in the selling process.

What this study is emphasizing and we’ve certainly seen this with our clients – is that the more you sell in your content, the less it sells. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s much less likely that sales or promotional content will be found in the first place. Odds are, your audience finds your content through search. The search engines work hard to respond to the query with quality content that answers the question posed. Helpful, informational content is almost always going to rank higher than promotional copy.

The second reason why salesy content doesn’t sell as well is because it’s a sales pitch and as consumers, we don’t respond well to sales pitches, especially when we are in the exploration stage of the buying journey. We might not even be in the market to buy anything. But when a brand consistently helps us learn more, make better decisions, or do some DIY activities that serve our family or our business, we are indebted to them. We value their good counsel or how easy they made it for us to get some answers.

When we are further along in the buying journey or when someone asks for a referral, the brand that offered helpful, informative content and didn’t make us feel rushed or pitched, is going to be in our consideration set, if not our sole choice.

What does helpful and informative content look like?

  • How-to videos with demos
  • Downloadable documents with step-by-step instructions
  • Detailed answers to questions you get asked every day
  • Hacks that a novice might not know to have a better experience
  • Best practice metrics or guidelines
  • Questions to ask before you XY or Z (Do not slant these to make your product or service the only choice or option)
  • Webinars that teach
  • Podcasts with guests who illuminate, inspire or educate (or all three!)

The best helpful and informative content may not mention your specific product or service at all, but it speaks right to the needs of the people who would most likely value your product or service.

I get it. It’s so tempting to toss in a little sales message. Resist the urge. Fight to have your altruistic intentions remain pure. Don’t give in to the temptation. Be patient. Remember how you feel when a salesperson rushes at you. You want to flee.

Your whole goal is to make your audience want to come back again and again because you are so helpful. When they get to the right spot on the buying journey, I promise you, the results will speak for themselves. They will seek you out.

But you have to let them get there through discovery.


Take a stand

June 19, 2019

How consumers interact with the companies they do business with, and their expectations of us evolve and are a direct reflection of our culture and core beliefs as human beings. That could not be more evident than today. A study (it’s done every year) called the Edelman Earned Brand Study is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research on how consumers (B2B and B2C) view their relationship with the companies they consider doing business with. The message from the 2018 study is unequivocal. Consumers, across the globe, expect us to take a stand.

The research found that 64 percent of consumers around the world now buy on belief, a remarkable increase of 13 points since 2017. These “Belief-Driven Buyers” will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.

One of the most startling statistics in the study is that 65% of consumers will not buy a brand because it stayed silent on an issue that the consumer believes the brand had an obligation to address.

This seismic shift over the past few years (it’s a trend we’ve been tracking since 2015) is a direct reflection on how we as a people are feeling about our society, our risks and our government. 53% believe that brands can do more to solve social ills than government and 54% believe it is easier to get a brand to address social problems than to get the government to act.

It’s not just about features and benefits anymore. Whether people are shopping for toothpaste or a truck, they’re factoring in a brand’s principles as much as its products. According to the research, silence will cost a company customers and revenue. Staying on the sidelines is no longer an option for brands.

This belief set is no longer fringe or limited to a particular age group. The Belief-Driven Buyers are the majority in every country surveyed, across all age groups and all income levels.

Buyers are just as likely to express the intent to purchase after viewing a communication focused on a brand’s stand as they are after seeing a product-focused communication. And if you’re trying to create raving fans, this is even more important. Any communication focused on a brand’s stand has an even more significant effect on a consumer’s intent to advocate for the brand than one focused on product features.

If you want social interaction and to get your best customers talking about you – take a stand. The study showed that people are much more likely to talk to their family or friends about you or post something online (a reply, like or share) if the topic is your stand on an issue, as opposed to your product’s features.

The Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is a perfect example of this strategy that is playing out before our eyes. Think about how it dominated our social channels, the traditional media, and our water cooler conversations when it came out. Many consumers either vowed to never buy Nike products again or went out of their way to reward them for taking a stand by making a purchase.

In the polarized world we live in, I can see why a company’s first instinct is to remain neutral. Why provoke either side? Why risk losing half of your potential customers because you spoke out on an issue or societal issue? But if this study is to be believed, and it’s one of the most reputable studies in the space, you actually risk losing more consumers if you do nothing. Neutrality is an expensive choice.

How will your organization respond to this? I don’t think you can avoid answering this question much longer.


Delivering bad news

June 12, 2019

newsIt’s inevitable. We are going to screw up and have to share that with our customers, prospects and in many cases, with our employees or teammates.

That we will have to do it is a given. But there’s quite a bit of latitude in how we do it.

In the latest security breach at Facebook, 50 million users were exposed. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly alerted the public and explained in detail what happened, why it happened and how Facebook account holders should secure their accounts.

At first glance, it appears as if Facebook was very upfront and handled the breach well. But Zuckerberg’s statement was widely criticized because he did not express remorse or apologize for exposing people’s information. He did not say “I’m sorry.”

And that is one of the key elements of how to handle a mistake. First and foremost – apologize. Don’t infer or imply it. Say the words. But you have to mean them. An insincere or begrudging apology is worse than no apology at all.

Another critical element to a successful mea culpa is your brand. When you apologize with style or grace, it is so disarming that you can neutralize a hostile customer base. I can’t think of a more volatile customer group than people on an airplane. They’re almost bracing for a fight because they expect bad service, flight delays, or seatmate issues.

I was on a flight recently, and it was a few minutes past the time that they should have closed the cabin doors. The pilot came out and got on the PA system. Here’s what he said:

“Folks, you know when the captain comes out of the cockpit to talk to you, it’s not good news. We’re going to be delayed because there’s a malfunction in the oxygen system in the cockpit and if something happens mid-flight, believe me; you want a conscious pilot. I know I’m old, but I promise, I’m more alert when I have oxygen. This problem is only in the cockpit. There’s nothing wrong with the oxygen system in the main cabin.

I’m am very sorry about this, and if anyone wants to yell at me about the delay, please come on up. But, I want to warn you – I’ve been married for 30 years, so I’m pretty immune. But you can still yell if it makes you feel better. Once the maintenance crew gets here, it should take them about ten minutes to fix the problem, so I expect we’ll be in the air in thirty minutes. If I think it’s going to be longer than that, I will let you know.”

When he was done, people laughed and applauded. They applauded a flight delay announcement. That doesn’t happen very often. So, what did the pilot do to earn everyone’s grace?

  • He was sincere and genuinely apologized.
  • He explained the root problem and the risks of not fixing the problem.
  • He gave specific details as to the timeframe to fix the problem.
  • He promised to keep his customers informed if there was a change in the plan or timeline.
  • He was warm and approachable.
  • He used humor at an appropriate level.
  • He invited customers to express their discontent.

That’s a pretty impressive outcome for a speech with fewer than 175 words. And actually, that’s one of the other things he did well. He didn’t wrap his notification and apology in a lot of excuses, explanations or weasel words. He was straightforward and candid.

In this era of 24/7 news, spectator captured video, and everything showing up on the internet, learning the art of the graceful apology seems to be a skill that would behoove us all.


Don’t forget to check in

May 22, 2019

check inI am not a fan of the restaurant manager check-in trend that seems to be the rage these days. I like the concept – a manager who is genuinely concerned with their customer’s experience but the execution leaves me wanting.

I think my reaction is a negative one because it feels abrupt and insincere. There’s no context to the conversation, no relationship between the parties and honestly, I don’t think the manager actually cares if I’m having a good meal. It feels like they are checking a box on their To-Do list as opposed to genuinely asking about my dining experience.

Last week I was out with some clients in their hometown and the manager of the restaurant swung by our table. Instead of just diving into the “how are your meals” question, she asked if we’d attended the local music festival that had just ended and when we said that we hadn’t, she shared a few tidbits about the festival and then inquired about our meals. Even that little bit of conversation made her inquiry feel less contrived and I enjoyed the pride she took in telling us a little more about where their meats were sourced and how the food was prepared.

That’s the difference. Most managers don’t know their customers and the one or two sentence check-in feels rote. But when someone in an authority position actually invests a bit of themselves and some time into a check-in, they can be an effective marketing tool.

This is smart marketing for all of us, whether we work on the business-to-business side or serve retail customers. I’m all for more formal data gathering like satisfaction surveys but there’s something very personal and powerful about a simple check-in.

For this to be effective, it needs to be informal and personal. In today’s tech-driven world, this is a person to person connection and if you infuse technology into it, you’ll destroy the impact.

This is you picking up the phone or approaching your customer in the store or when you see them out and about. There are some other key elements that need to be present for this tactic to be effective.

You can’t be a stranger: The reason the drive by restaurant check-ins feel insincere is because they are impersonal and have no context. You want to be able to connect first and then ask for their feedback.

The more specific the better: Don’t use jargon or generic terms like satisfaction. Ask how your product is solving a particular issue or if they prefer what they chose this time to what they usually buy. When you are specific, they will be in return and you’ll learn a lot more.

Offer an enhancement or secret: During your check-in, be ready with some tip or trick that will make them enjoy what they’ve bought from you even more. Think of it as a superuser hack that most people might not know. Your goal is to make them feel like an insider. A residual benefit of this technique is that when someone mentions your business, they’re going to talk about the secret. They’ll love that they can look like they’re in the know.

Don’t combine purposes: This is not a check in AND a sales call. The minute you try to sell something, it completely negates any goodwill you created by checking in. If you want them to feel like you actually care about their experience and opinion, stay focused there.

This marketing technique costs you nothing but a little bit of time. But it will give you incredible insight into your client’s experience, spotlight areas of weakness or missed opportunities and, when done well, increase your customer loyalty and satisfaction levels.

Not bad for free!


Time to double down?

February 20, 2019

double downIf your business is like the majority of organizations in the U.S., things have been pretty good. Sales have been more plentiful and come a little easier. In fact, if you’re having any trouble at all, it’s hiring and keeping the right employees to serve all of that business. Many businesses experienced one of their best years in 2017 or 2018. It’s easy to assume that we’re going to keep riding this wave, but I believe we’re about to see a shift. I’m seeing subtle signs that suggest things are about to get a little tighter. From a marketing and sales perspective, I would recommend it’s time to double down.

What I mean by that is I think it’s the right season to invest more time, talent and budget into the customers you already have. When people start spending less or are slower to spend, they are more likely to keep spending with an organization they already know, trust and value. If you’re a long-time reader of mine, you know that I think every business underestimates how much of their budget and attention should be invested in their existing client relationships. We spend too much of our time, attention and money chasing after new dollars as opposed to being more useful and valuable to our existing clients.

Your job, as we enter this season of scarcity, is to make sure the relationships you have with your current clients are rock solid. If anyone is going to give you new dollars in a tight economy, it’s someone who is already giving you dollars.

Here are some ways you can strengthen those relationships now, so they keep bearing fruit if things tighten up.

Ask their opinion: Everyone likes to provide input. A customer satisfaction survey will not only show you some places that need your attention, but it also creates a bond with the people who respond. Some business leaders shy away from customer satisfaction work because they think it invites complaints and dissatisfaction. In today’s rating and review economy – that’s happening anyway. You need to get over yourself and ask.

The key to this going well is promising the respondents that you will share what you learned from the effort and how you are going to act upon the feedback. After you’ve compiled the results, write a letter thanking everyone for their input, telling them what you learned (good and bad) and what you are implementing to elevate on the areas that need some improvement.

Bring them together: A customer-only event is a smart way to strengthen customer relationships. First, you are giving them access to something that no one else can attend. Second, you’re going to make your event something that helps them improve (based on what you sell them) over time, and third, you’re going to invite them to hang out with other people who share their interest or motivations. This works well for both B-to-B and B-to-C businesses.

An added benefit for you is that when you bring clients together, they only have one thing in common. You. Your best customers become your best salespeople. They talk about the work you do together or the product you sell them and rave about the results.

There’s no reason why the pending economic shift has to be a problem for you. Sure, it might be tougher to earn new business from new customers, but that’s not the only path to economic success. If you double down on the relationships that are already strong and can be enhanced, you will weather this blip on the radar screen well. And even if I’m wrong, there’s nothing but good that will come out of investing more in the clients you already have and love.



The cost of apathy

January 9, 2019

apathyI live out in a newer suburb. I say “out” because bits of civilization have not reached us yet. There’s no movie theatre or Target (hopefully both are coming soon), and there’s no Panera. For my family, this almost put our location out of the running when we were ready to move.

On occasion, I’ll make the run into a closer suburb for everyone’s favorite Panera breakfast items. Round trip, including order time, is 45 minutes. So imagine my irritation when I got home a couple of weeks ago to discover that all the egg and cheese sandwiches were missing a key ingredient – the eggs.

Here’s the truth for all of us. No matter how hard we try – we’re going to disappoint a customer. It’s inevitable. The good news is that depending on how we respond to the mistake, we can either deepen the relationship or lose the client.

Re-earning a customer’s loyalty doesn’t happen by accident. You need to anticipate where you might underperform and then you need to create standardized responses. But, that’s not enough. You need to train your people on the responses but even more than that – they must have a customer-centric point of view. When confronted with the problem, whatever it may be, they need to care enough to want to resolve it. If that’s not the case, no protocol is going to save the situation.

On that Sunday, I picked up the phone and asked for the manager. After waiting for about 13 minutes, Adam, the manager on duty, came on the line and I explained the situation.

Fix opportunity #1: Apologize. Actually, use the words “I’m sorry.” Adam never apologized or even acknowledged that they made a mistake, inconvenienced us or ruined breakfast. In fact, Adam made it pretty clear that they were busy and he didn’t have a lot of time for this conversation.

Fix opportunity #2: Ask how you can re-earn the customer’s trust. Adam said they’d be happy to make new sandwiches if I wanted to come back to the store. When I explained the distance, he said that was his only option. If you don’t know — Panera delivers. But my suburb was too far away. Not too far away for me to drive back, but too far away for him to send someone out.

Fix opportunity #3: Have processes and procedures in place for the most common issues. I’m sure this was not their first faulty order. Being able to credit the customer seems like a simple choice. But after I said I did not want to drive all the way back, there was silence. I was expecting him to offer up some alternatives, but he didn’t. Finally, I started problem-solving for him and came up with options.

Me: Can you just put a refund on my credit card?

Adam: No. Our machines aren’t set up to do that.

Me: Can you mail me a gift card for the amount?

Adam: No. I can’t do that.

Me: Well Adam, what can you do?

Adam: If you want to write my name on the receipt, we’ll give you free sandwiches the next time you come in.

I did not. Instead, I wrote his name on several review sites.

Fix opportunity #4: Remember the power of the consumer. 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as their friends. If an establishment has less than 4 stars, the average consumer eliminates them as an option.

At the end of the day, we had plenty of food in the house, and no one went hungry. Was it a big deal? Not particularly. But Adam’s disregard made it a big deal. This isn’t just a problem for Panera. Mistakes are inevitable. You can afford those. But, you can’t afford to have employees who don’t care.


A twist on old school tactics

December 5, 2018

old schoolIn this era of all things digital, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to go old school and talk about some very simple marketing tactics that are often undervalued and underutilized. Best of all, neither of these ideas will dent your marketing budget.

Thank you notes: When I was growing up, my mom was a stickler for thank notes. On December 26th there would be a stack of thank you cards and a list of recipients on the kitchen table. The importance of that act has stuck with me my entire life, and I still write a ton of thank you notes.

Most of us don’t get a lot of traditional mail anymore, and when we do, we sort it over the wastebasket because there’s not a lot of value in what we receive. So we notice personal mail, and we remember who sent it to us.

When a client places a new order or makes a referral, don’t just shoot them a quick email. When a prospect makes time to learn about your business, be memorable. Their inbox is already bloated. Take five minutes and do what most people don’t do — write a thank you note.

Tech twist: When I’m on the road I don’t want to carry a bunch of thank you notes in my suitcase, so I use an app called Bond Black. It allows me to send a handwritten thank you note with my actual signature from anywhere in the world without trying to track down stamps or cards.

Make connections: We all have people in our lives that seem to know everyone and can quickly make valuable introductions that create new partnerships, client relationships, and peer connections. You need to be one of those people.

The good news is that you don’t need to know a certain number of people or have a certain level of influence. All you have to do is be intentional. The Zig Ziglar quote, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want” is spot on. What Zig didn’t say but I think is implied is that your desire to help them get what they want has to be genuine. You can’t fake it just so they’re helpful to you in return.

Here’s a great way to start. Make a list of ten people who genuinely have helped your business. Now, think of someone you know that would benefit them in some way. They might be a potential client or vendor. Or they might serve the same customer base but in a non-competitive way and there could be the possibility of them partnering together on a promotion or joint offering. Make an introduction, explaining why you think they should get to know each other. It’s that simple.

Tech twist: Use Linkedin as your connection hub. Leave recommendations for people who have been influential in helping your business. Go a step beyond that and send a message to two people you want to connect and make an introduction. They’ll be able to meet each other and make a LinkedIn connection, which opens their networks to each other.

While both of these tactics may seem rudimentary, we don’t do either often enough.

Selfishly, they pay huge dividends. But even more important than that – they remind us to be the kind of business leader we should all aspire to be. Giving, gracious and grateful. I know those are the kinds of business people who have helped me learn, grow and build my business for the past 25+ years and I want to return the favor.



Who already trusts you?

November 21, 2018

trustIf there is a cardinal sin of marketing, it’s ignoring the people who already know you, appreciate you and give you money. For most organizations, 60-75% of your net new revenue should come from your existing customer base.

Despite that metric, most businesses spend the majority of their marketing dollars and efforts chasing after new clients and invest very little in wooing the customers they have already earned. You’ve already cleared the highest hurdle – earning their trust. And yet, we often walk right past them on our way to talk to strangers.

One of the biggest values of marketing to your current clients is that they’re the ones who are most likely to tell others about you. It’s logical to think that the more they know about you, the more they can share with someone else who might be in the market for what you sell.

Another lost opportunity, if you don’t actively connect with your customers, is that they develop a narrowed view of who you are and what you do. Odds are good that even your best clients don’t utilize every product or service you offer. If you don’t keep reminding them of all of the other ways you can help them – they begin to pigeonhole you as the “fill in the blank” company that is purely defined by what they currently buy.

We’ve certainly had that happen at MMG. If we developed a brand and the support materials (logo, tagline, etc.) for a client, they begin to see us as a brand shop. If we don’t keep talking about other aspects of marketing strategy and execution, we can quickly be JUST a brand shop.

In all of our work with financial institutions, we knew that if someone had 3+ accounts or 4+ ACH/direct deposits going in and out of their checking account, they were far less likely to change institutions. The marketing expression for this reality is “setting more hooks” and it’s as true for your business as it is for a bank or credit union.

Of course, the trick is how do you introduce yourself to someone who already knows you? Marketing to your existing customer base is all about demonstrating that you recognize who they are and what matters to them. There’s no need to focus on helping them get to know you or trust you. You’re already there. It’s looking for ways to enhance what you already do for them.

Make a list of the customers who make up the top tier of your sales. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What could we do (not sell) to make their experience with us something they couldn’t help but talk about?
  • What product or service would significantly enhance the effectiveness/usefulness of what they already buy from us?
  • How can we bring that to them immediately, either through something else we offer or from a strategic partner?
  • How do we genuinely demonstrate that we appreciate their loyalty and business?
  • Who, from my figurative Rolodex, needs to know about this person/company and how can I make those referrals?
  • Have we invited this client to provide a testimonial, case study or to leave us a review?
  • How can we institutionalize these kinds of requests so we get them from all of our best, happiest customers?
  • What else do they need that we don’t currently provide that we could develop and deliver with excellence?

If you want to set more hooks and bring even more value to your best clients, you’ll need to spend some time finding the answers to these questions and then be ready to invest some time, talent and budget to bring those strategies to life.



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.