Customer Service Web Pages–Make them Usable, Findable

Your customers ARE your business. They can refer you to others, brag about your service, or they can try to destroy you on social media with one bad experience.

How can your customers contact you on to renew their subscriptions, change their address, cancel, or ask a question? Phone call, online chat, or website customer center? Whatever tools you have, how do you promote them to your customers? A recent look at many controlled brand websites showed me 1–how difficult I can be for readers to even find customer service sections and 2– how outdated these web pages can be.

Can your customers find your subscription center?  Many home pages do not have a clearly marked link to a subscriber center. Can your reader click on a “subscribe” link? Or the “Contact us” or “subscription center” link in tiny print in the home site footer”? Your links—do they work?

site selection

Here is one home page I liked, where the subscription center is clearly identified

Once your customer reaches your customer service center, how easy is it for them to update their record?

 Most of the brands I work with offer print and/or digital editions. But, many of the web pages I saw only give the opportunity to look up subscriber information if someone has a print label with their subscriber account number.

BAM sub page

Here are a few samples of forms I like that include look up options by either account number OR email address.Facilities exec cs

Space News

 What happens after a subscriber requests a change?  Your customer should receive a notification of the change. This can be a pop-up message or email that confirms the contact information change was made, even if it is a deletion.

 Why is updating your subscription center important? I work in the audience development sector and spend a lot of time looking at websites. If I can’t find your link, a reader who may be looking for the page get frustrated and leave your site. And this person might possibly be a valuable, engaged customer who then decides not to come back. Ever.

It makes financial and business sense to keep your customers who move, change jobs, names, titles or even just change their email address. As it gets harder to acquire new customers and click through rates continue to drop, keeping current customers engaged definitely can help control your budgets. And keep your current customers engaged with your brand.

The journey continues.

Cindy Cardinal

8 Questions To Ask About a Database Before Advertising

Recently a prospective vendor asked how big a client’s database was, to decide whether to advertise with us. “What other metrics do they want?” I asked.  None, I was told.

None?  Really?

Anyone can build a big database–really big–filled with garbage names, inactive records, known bad addresses, lists culled from questionable sources. However, I highly doubt that a database filled with those lists is going to get any client worthwhile introductions or engagement.  Or any follow up advertising from that vendor.

I have shared many posts on building a successful database, such as What is YOUR Database STRATEGY?Spring Cleaning Your …. Data, and 5 Low-Cost Ideas to Improve Email Response Rates. Now.

For advertisers evaluating a database, I think there are better questions a prospect can ask to gauge whether a database is healthy and a viable fit for them.  Some of them include (in no particular order):

  • How many active users (prospects/customers) have you added to your database in the last year?
  • How many people in my specific target area do you have on your database? Can you show me any demographic profiles?
  • What percentage of your database has demographics?
  • How are you building brand engagement?
  • What is the average open rate on your emails/enewsletters/etc?
  • If you own multiple, similar brands I want to advertise with, what is the overlap on their distribution?
  • If considering hosting a webinar, what is the average attendee vs. sign up ratio?  How long does the average attendee participate in the webinar?
  • How do you actively try to re-engage older customers on your database?

Every database will have strengths and shortfalls. I tell my clients that we should promote our positive points upfront.  By providing snippets of data, it may eliminate questions that emphasize weaknesses. Obviously, the success an advertiser sees in their marketing programs will truly show them the effectiveness of our database and their investment.

The journey continues. Cindy

10 Simple Ways to be More Successful in Marketing Technology

woman-in-tech-pp-coverI recently had the privilege of moderating a webinar on How to be Successful in Tech/ Marketing Tech. Geared to women, the event was hosted by BrightTALK. The 3 panelists were Liz Bullock Director Digital & Paid Media at Rackspace, Isabelle Dumont Head of Marketing at BlueTalon, and Aya Fawzy, now Director of Marketing at Skedulo.

The creation of the presentation still fascinates me–that 4 women who never met could collaborate from across the country to create the flow of the presentation, slide decks, and drive the conversation with insightful questions asked by the attendees.

The speakers think it’s an opportunistic time to work in tech. 1.1 million NEW tech jobs are expected by 2024, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. However, women comprise only 27% of the Tech workforce.

I hope that some of our experiences and ideas can help increase your influence in this lucrative field, or as you pivot to a tech career:

  1. The digital arena is the great equalizer in the tech arena, since women are almost as fluent on digital platforms as men, according to an Accenture 2016 study.   Be active on the digital platforms that are used in your industry, from Snapchat to Pinterest to Twitter.
  2. Increase your social outreach by keeping your own profiles active on LinkedIn, Twitter if you use it. We all found that most of our opportunities come from others in our digital work circles, so this electronic networking can be invaluable.
  3. Be active in associations and online groups. Continue to gain knowledge from attending webinars, local events, taking extra classes and/or getting certifications from reputable organizations.
  4. Having both formal and informal mentors can help broaden your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you admire to ask them to work with you in various work areas. Change out your mentors on a regular basis, to learn from a variety of people.
  5. When work is very busy, make sure to focus on the projects that bring the most return.
  6. Stretch yourself when new job opportunities appear. Lean In says that women often don’t apply for a job unless they have 100% of the skills asked for. Men will apply when they only have 60% of suggested experience.
  7. If you work for yourself–or are negotiating for a new job– pricing yourself can be difficult. Value your time and knowledge fairly. Remember that companies will never tell you that you are pricing too low!
  8. Know your non-negotiables during the interview process.
  9. When in meetings, women are often the minority. You should be engaged in meetings; this includes offering valuable insights, not offering to get coffee or take notes.
  10. Block time on your calendar to read, learn, or grow in technology and your field.

You can listen to the presentation in its entirety here.

We all think that the attitude to jump in and try, to push ourselves, to change courses if needed is the way to be successful in the Tech world now and in the future.

So, reach for that new job, and learn along the way.

The journey continues. C

Why I got a HubSpot Certification-and Why Many of my Colleagues are Back-To-School

I recently got my HubSpot Inbound Certification! To earn it, I took 12.5 hours of online classes, took quizzes, and then passed a test of 60 questions in 70 minutes.

cc-hs-cert

Some of the lessons were very basic for an experienced marketer. Others gave me a different perspective at the buying process.

Some people asked why I was getting this certification.  The most important reason is that all of my clients—and my company—have websites and are attracting and engaging with their customers online.  I hope that the lessons I learned from other experts will give me a new perspective when creating  marketing plans, online content, and setting and measuring response rates.

I know several professionals in other industries who are also back at school, some getting on-line certificates, others working towards really time-consuming certificates, one an MBA.   Here are some reasons why they said they were getting extra education:

  • Update needed credentials
  • New technologies allow them to learn a new skill to help clients
  • To learn new skill sets
  • Tie together different parts of their education and experience
  • Build credibility & respect
  • Differentiate their knowledge level

Varied but valid reasons, I think. Stepping away from our daily routines helps us to look at our world from a different lens. It gives us new ways to challenge ourselves. And may introduce us to new people and opportunities.

Plan for it next year—take a class, earn a new certification or degree, attend an event, join an industry association. Maybe it will lead somewhere unexpected.

The journey continues.

C

How Not to Say Thank you

thank-you

I think it’s important to say thank you to your customers. When they buy something or respond an online offer (magazine, webinar, research, etc), it is an opportunity for you to reaffirm your commitment to them. Each email, direct mail piece, or box shipped with item that a customer has ordered is an opportunity to re-affirm your relationship and promote your brand.

Be sure when saying THANK YOU that you look at your effort from the customer’s point of view. Does it REALLY say thank you?

Here are 2 examples of “thank yous” gone awry. I received both within the last month:

  • We recently refinanced our house. We work with a major bank and have known our mortgage broker for years. The bank sent a thank you note, supposedly from the broker, with his business cards. Yet, the envelope and note were addressed only to my husband. How exclusionary and sexist! If your system has personalization limitations, then don’t do it at all. It looks thoughtless.
  • Unbeknownst to me, a client of mine bought a list of names a year ago from a vendor I had never heard of. It was a mess—multiple worksheets, incorrect column headers, duplicate names. Needless to say, the list was used 1x then tossed. Recently, my client and I were sent an email with a quick note of thanks and promoting a new service. Great idea for follow up, but it was a year after the purchase. Worse, instead of sending a new email, he attached his marketing message to one I sent a year ago with all the issues about the poor quality of the data files. If I had not remembered that poor experience, this email certainly brought it to the top of mind again.

(Aside that this is an example of why you should use an experienced person to vet and test list vendors before you buy a list from one of the many, many unscrupulous list sellers).

If you want to really say thank you, here is a post I wrote with some “thank you” examples that might give you real inspiration as you create YOUR thank you messages.

And as we head into this holiday weekend, I thank you Reader, for taking time to read my posts, share them, and send me email comments and questions about them.

The journey continues. C

5 Ways for Women to Increase Value in the Technology Industry. Now.

In the fast-moving and lucrative technology sector, women only make up 21.7% of the workforce, according to a recent study by the Anita Borg Institute. Technology touches a wide swath of our daily lives.  It is critical to increase women’s presence and voice in this visible industry, to influence the creation, execution, and direction of technology-related products and services.

I recently attended an inspiring webinar “Women in Tech Marketers: How to Advance Your Career in Today’s Digital World” put on by BrightTALK. All 3 speakers had excellent advice: Niki Hall from Polycom, Kate Athmer from Integrate and Natascha Thomson from MarketingXLerator.

First, try to work for an organization that enables you to succeed. Once you find that job, find a formal or informal mentor who will be your champion and help you grow.

On today’s data-is-boss workplace, it is imperative that you take data-driven information to accelerate your path forward.

In technical or development meetings, oftentimes women are in the minority. Think about yourself today–how do you handle yourself in group settings, to increase your value and visibility within your organization?

Here are 5 simple ways the speakers discussed to increase visibility in your next meeting:

  1. If you are invited to the meeting, it’s because you have something to offer. Be there as a participant, not just a witness.
  2. Be prepared.
  3. Take authority when given a task or project. Be factual; don’t ask a stream of questions, looking for approval.
  4. Make sure what you are doing adds value to the group. For example, don’t offer to re-fill coffee for others, take notes for the group if you are the only female attending.
  5. Sit by the smartest or most powerful person in the room. Studies have shown that this helps to increase perceived value within an organization.

I think that these 5 tips can help women in many areas of business. But in work sectors like technology that are more driven by men, it is even more critical that we get our seat at the table. And use it as best we can to increase our presence and value in our workplace.

Remember: Be firm. Understand what you are supposed to do. Then do it.

Importance of Gearing Marketing Content to the Buying Process

Who are your marketing messages created for?  Do you have materials for people in every stage of the buying process? Especially on your website, you should provide content to potential and current customers involved in each stage of the buying process.

A very simple flow of the buying process is:

  1. Awareness—where the buyer identifies the need or problem
  2. Consideration—research options
  3. Conversion—make purchase
  4. Post-purchase behavior—is the buyer happy? Will they purchase again?

Think about how you make purchases, both professionally and personally. If you find value in a company and are HAPPY with your experiences, you will hopefully think of them first as a resource the next time you buy a product or service that they offer.

Become the trusted vendor/partner who customers want to learn from, engage with, purchase from, brag about. Create evangelists who will share their stories in person, on social media, and even in comments on your website.

According to the Harvard Business Review, it costs 5 to 25 times to acquire new customers than maintain new ones. It also takes TIME to find new customers. So, once someone becomes a customer, with your content and outreach you should encourage them to stay engaged and make future purchases from you.

Future posts will walk through each step of the buying purchase.

C

Technically, What is a Consultant?

I recently bought a new (used) car.   After 3 long days of testing vehicles—and many hours doing online research– success! But, the buying process is horrid. It should be joyful to buy something expensive that you want and need, but it can be dreadful. And most people I have talked to echoed these sentiments.

At the dealer where we finally bought from my Jeep, the sales associate we were assigned to gave us his business card, which listed his title as “Sales Consultant.”

Dictionary.com lists the definition of consultant as:

1.a person who gives professional or expert advice:

a consultant on business methods.

2.a person who consults someone or something.

I don’t use the title Consultant lightly. It’s what I do every single day at work, and I am proud of the knowledge I have to do my job. My role is to help organizations solve a problem.

All consultants have an area of expertise. If someone comes to me with a project that veers far outside my knowledge base, I will try to refer her to another firm or person who can help them.

The dealer’s “consultant” Vern (not his real name) was unable to help us fix ANYTHING. He couldn’t tell us anything about the Jeep that was not written down, help us negotiate price, give us the interest loan %, or even clean up the car.

Every question had to be referred to someone else, who was of course not standing in his glass-enclosed cubicle. I didn’t want or need to hear his unrelated stories—I just wanted to buy the car and get back to my life. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with Vern again.

His use of the title “Consultant” was insulting to me and perpetuates the assumption that all consultants don’t offer value. Not true.

If you are looking for a consultant to work with to help you with your database and/or audience development needs , be sure that she can communicate well, stay relevant, and most importantly—collaborate and offer solutions. Hopefully the process will be smoother than what I recently experienced buying a car.

If you are looking to hire a consultant, here is a post I wrote who-what-how to start your process.

The journey continues.  C

Technology Changes: A Group Effort

Firm A: Technology specialist got a new email provider. Prior to this, there were no discussions with database management team of how to integrate this new service with their data platform. How would new or updated records be transferred, opt outs be managed, demographic changes be reflected?

Firm B: In an information services company, the marketing dept. signed a contact with a large marketing automation software company. They then turned it over to IT with the directive to implement this with their current database software. Since IT was unaware of this purchase until after the fact, no consideration had been given to if or how complicated this integration would be, whether this was a good fit, or the costs for building the data communications.

As our technology platforms multiply and get more complicated to integrate, it is imperative that teams work together to find the most appropriate, flexible, cost-effective, and user-friendly option BEFORE a contract is signed.

Multiple user groups should be involved in the final testing testing of a new system—users from events, e-media, subscriptions, membership, research. Listening to the pros and cons of this system from a variety of intelligent voices can help give a new perspective. Also, when others are consulted, I have found the buy-in to change improves. Why invest in a system that no one ends up using?

There should also be an objective project manager who keeps the process moving forward and looks out for the organization’s best interests. Often the different user groups will look at these explorations from how it impacts just their department. They are not aware how this change will impact the entire organization’s processes to hopefully streamline workloads, learn more about customers, and improve the bottom line.

The project manager can be an internal or external person. I have done this from a consultative role for several firms.  If you do hire an outside consultant, find out their relationship with the companies under consideration. While we are all familiar with different firms, I do not think that as consultants we should be financially or otherwise tied to firms we recommend, unless full disclosures are made.

And if you have yet to lay out your STRATEGY for a new database or technology platform, be sure to read my recent post on this topic.

The journey continues.   C

What’s in Your Mix?

How do you mix up your marketing efforts? Are you using all the tools available to you to maximize response rates and improve your cost per return? For all the elements that are components of controlled  (free) brands today, we need to market smarter to keep our customer engaged: magazines, webinars, research downloads, pay-per-lead collateral, newsletters.

People are still bombarding their email lists with non-targeted efforts. Doing that on a continual basis is going to tire those customers out.

Here are a number of things you can try to incorporate into upcoming marketing plans: (you do HAVE a marketing plan, don’t you? If not, read the basics now).

  1. Change up your email efforts! New creative, new copy, etc.
  2. How are you using your social media lists and platforms?
  3. For magazines, have you tried a tip cover? (cardboard stock covers to get people to renew/subscribe/engage). After dropping them, I have been finding success with them the past couple years. A future post will discuss some options for these covers.
  4. House ads, both in print and online format.
  5. Direct mail—too expensive for many b2b brands today, maybe you can partner an offer with an advertiser. Or send to their prospect list for some new names.

With so many self-built members on various social media portals, we should target them with focused messages. And test the timing/frequency/wording of our efforts.

How can you shake up your next efforts? Your customers might just respond to a new format, new time, new place for your offer.

The journey continues.

C