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brand websites showed me 1–how difficult I can be for readers to even find customer service sections and 2– how outdated these web pages can be.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

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

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

5 Ideas to Help you Provide Better Advertiser Leads Now

Niche Marketing. Target marketing.  Today, these long-used marketing terms are mingling with the word narrowcasting, which traditionally was known as the way that TV and radio media disseminate information to a select audience.  Narrowcasting correlates well with how advertisers are increasingly asking media companies to provide extremely focused lists to target with their marketing efforts or for specific leads sent directly to them.

My last post shared my prediction that narrowcasting will continue to become more important in 2016.  Since that post, it seems the demand for these services is growing even quicker than I thought. Last week I saw yet another press release about a larger b2b publisher offering targeted information services to their clients.

Even if you don’t have a budget to create and maintain this type of personalized marketing services today, there are some things you can do now to better serve the increased advertiser requests for detailed customer information. If they haven’t asked for it yet, they will soon.

  1. Keep your current customer and prospect database clean.  The more up-to-date it is, the more likely that your marketing efforts and leads you can provide will have accurate information. Capture demographic data from your website visitors in a non-invasive way. If you don’t have a breadth of customer knowledge, now is the time to start asking for information about them.  What you collect will vary by industry, and what advertisers are requesting.
  2. Provide ongoing, quality web content. Be the go-to website that keeps your customers coming back. The increased site visits give you additional opportunities to learn more about your repeat visitors. 
  3. Mine your data! What emerging areas of interest are on your website? Is there is a specific topic where people are increasingly accessing information? And is this an opportunity for a new focused product or a new segment of advertisers you can target?
  4. Give salespeople the tools they need to prep before they meet with an advertiser. Effective sales people today need to know who your most active customers are, what they respond to, and various ways you can slice up your customer list for more targeted offers. 
  5. Educate the advertiser on the buying process for your industry.  In my last post I mentioned how advertisers seem to all ask for leads of a very small, high level demographic group.  If you can demonstrate to your advertisers that a different or wider group is involved in the selection/buying process, that gives you a deeper pool of names to target. This broader audience will also help to avoid list fatigue.

Focusing on any or all of these item will teach you more about your customer, which will give yo opportunities to provide them with valuable information they can use in their business or personal life, which will help you to give advertisers those sought-after leads–at a premium–which will hopefully improve your bottom line.

The journey continues. C

A Marketer’s 2016 Top Prediction

As an audience marketer, my #1 marketing prediction for what is HOT in 2016 remains what was my #1 2015 prediction, with a few twists. In January 2015 that was:

Lead generation. Advertisers continue to request more detailed demographics about their leads. These leads are lucrative, IF marketing companies have the information being demanded—employee size, sales volume, titles, business types, etc.

The demand from advertisers to reach a very specific audience will continue to increase in 2016. They want us to pre-qualify leads before we send pass them along. Sample: we want 1000 leads of people in the C-suite (CEO, CIO, President) in $100 million+ companies. This is a typical request—but it seems like EVERYONE wants to each this group. Note– this group does NOT make all the purchase decisions! They may sign off on a contact, but it is the upper management who often vets and recommends vendors. Another topic for another day, since I could write reams about this subject.

The ongoing question is –how do we continue to capture and then fulfill these types of requests? Advertisers today often ask for targeted leads with email addresses and phone numbers. To continue to provide clean, active prospects, we need to first provide valuable web content that encourages prospects to give us their contact information. This can be an article on our website, a white paper, a free sample, a video, a webinar, a live event, a research summary, the list goes on.

We need to harness the power of our customers and our database.  At the front end we need targeted marketing efforts that promote these “carrots” to the correct audience. We then need to ensure we capture and turn around the contact information on a timely basis.

A lot to ask for, with today’s budgets and tight timelines, as well as customers becoming more reluctant to share personal information.  My next post will be some practical, inexpensive ways you can improve your target marketing efforts TODAY.

The journey continues.

C

2016 Marketing Plan Flip

For magazine publishers, media companies, information services companies—whichever moniker you go by–2015 has been a challenging year for magazine audience development. Response rates have dropped, and there is more demand for data about subscribers that they do not want to share.

It’s time for 2016 budgeting and planning for many companies. I think we should consider flipping many of the marketing plans upside down, act differently to improve results in 2016.

Here are some ideas I have that you can incorporate in your 2016 marketing efforts:

  • Keep testing on larger email efforts.The incremental response differences add up—and you will learn more about your customers. There are many posts with testing ideas on my blog including this one.
  • Review where telemarketing falls on your plan. Test it earlier, especially for subscribers without email addresses on file. Can you do some dual-pub efforts in one call?
  • Use all available internal lists for your marketing efforts. Recently, I had positive results calling an internal list that had previously only been used for email efforts.
  • Do list exchanges with partner companies or consider list trades with competitors.
  • When setting up trade show exchanges, include sending out emails to the attendee list or the host company’s house list. This can net some brand new names for your database.
  • Does your web site include ads and pop ups offering free subscriptions?
  • If someone signs up for a quote or membership on your site, the welcome link/email can include an offer to subscribe.
  • Can you test any direct mail, even an inexpensive tip-cover?

Today’s brands are multi faceted, including other components such as magazines, enewsletters, events, website membership and downloads, and research. Oftentimes, the audience development budget is still subscriber-focused (especially if the magazine is BPA or AAM audited and/or has periodicals mailing privileges).

If that holds true for your brand,  it’s imperative that 1—magazine subscribers help support the entire brand and 2—“owners” of all the brand elements work together to help find invested, active users.   Make sure your audience development guru know all the segments you are trying to reach.

The journey continues.

C

Last Ditch Efforts

When marketing efforts are not performing as hoped and BPA deadlines loom, many brands resort to their ” last ditch efforts” to hit their audit goals. With the ease of sending out email efforts, we can often find new subscribers shortly before issue closes. Or telemarket to one final segment with a tight timeframe.

In these days of in-box overload,we need to think carefully abut the lists we use for our final efforts. Key list overuse will certainly result in lower response rates and higher opt outs for future efforts. But, with a little digging, you may find pockets of names to market to hidden in your database(s). If data is siloed in multiple locations, this is a great time to reach across your desk and ferret out some new lists.

Here are a few places you may be able to find internal lists to market to:

Former subscribers
Sister magazines
Enewsletter subscribers–for the host or sister brands
Online or in-person event lists
Trades for outside event lists
Website registrants
Research boards
Advertiser lists
People who have downloaded white papers and other material from your website
Prospect lists that other departments might have
Review unqualifed subscribers–can you append missing data or manually upgrade them to qualified status?
If you are missing email addresses or phone numbers on current subscribers,can you append that information from other internal brands so you can contact them via email/phone?

One or more of these lists might net some new subscribers for you. Happy digging!

The journey continues.

C

What’s Hidden Behind Your Walls?

My house is trashed.There are currently 3 floors of construction–all due from water leaking near the chimney and running silently down inside the walls over the last year. Walls are bare to the cement, ceilings removed, insulation and carpets ripped out.

This unseen problem reminds me of the issues that can happen to your unwatched database. Looking only at the top-line counts, signs of growth  can be positive.  But, someone needs to monitor the lists added, the aging of files, ensure that demographics are properly applied, watch how lists are selected and used, review response rates, and monitor the general health of the database.

Without this vigilance, your data can become corroded. And you might not even know for awhile. For example, if you append data incorrectly, you may start marketing your car wash cleaning supplies to beauty parlors. Or send invitations for an exclusive executive retreat to lower level personnel who do not have the experience or travel budgets to attend. Wasteful and expensive, and you will likely not reach your target numbers and your budget.

Or you add a poor quality email list and start using it without permission, cleaning or testing. Then you might end up on some blacklists on top of low response rates.

A bad list and incorrect data upgrades are just a couple examples of hidden problems that can impact your database viability. Avoid those leaks that can quickly and silently spread throughout your database. And if you or someone spots a potential problem, be sure to investigate it. Unchecked,that trickle can run throughout your database.

Don’t let any hidden leaks require you to break down your database.  Hopefully ongoing monitoring will help keep your database healthy.  And strong.  And a valuable asset to your organization.

The journey continues.

C

Marketing Primer

Whether you are a new or experienced marketer, sometimes it helps to have a refresher on setting up a marketing campaign. If I have worked with a brand for some time, it can be easy to just go through the motions without thinking about each step. When I meet with new clients, I am amazed at the number of professionals who do not lay out their marketing plan and then track the results as they come in.

As email responses continue to drop, having a cohesive plan should help you to better plan your type of effort, scheduling, and workflow. Then hopefully nudge those responses up. Sending out a mass of unfocused marketing efforts to a random or huge group of names is expensive, wastes customers’ time, increases opt outs, and hurts your database health in the long-term.

Whether you are setting an email/telemarketing/direct mail/online marketing campaign, most of the steps followed will be the same.

First, what is the goal of your campaign? And equally important, what is the budget? Obviously, these two items drive much of any campaign.

Examine results from your previous campaigns. The more history, the easier it is to plan and estimate results from your upcoming campaign.What lists worked? What designs? If it was an email, what subject line got the email opened? Which link got more clicks? If telemarketing, was there a script opening that performed better? Can you manipulate the questions asked?

Determine your schedule. Working backwards from your final deadline, how many efforts can you do? Allow time for variations, as there are many reasons an effort can run late.

Select your lists carefully, as I believe that the audience is still the key to your campaign.   If you need to purchase some outside lists or trade with marketing partners, build in time to work with your list broker.

Design your efforts. Write and design your email or direct mail efforts, craft a script. Source vendors. What TEST can you incorporate in your efforts? Always, always test something.

Execute your efforts in a timely manner. Measure your results. Then adjust your plan, if needed.

Tracking your campaign results will make future efforts smoother to plan and execute. You know what copy works, what time of day is best to send out, when to switch from email to telemarketing, what lists work, etc. etc.

Plan, and plan more. And be prepared for the unexpected. It will happen. But, by creating a following a plan, you will hopefully minimize disaster.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. Be sure to read next week’s post. will include critical fields to include in your marketing plan, to better track your responses. Even if you just start using a written plan now, your next campaign will be easier to set up. I promise.

Holiday Sharing

It is a gifting time of year.  We share sentiments, cards, gifts, money, time.  As a business owner, I think it’s important to show my customers special appreciation each holiday season.  Frankly, I am surprised each year that fewer of my suppliers say “thank you” at all, even via a card.  It is a simple way to strengthen relationships, market our companies, and stay front of mind for our current customers and prospects.

A small gift, for my readers, is a copy of my recent presentation given at both AAMP in LA and MCA in Chicago.  This presentation was on Better Using Customer Touch Points to Build Audience Relationships.  Several people have asked for a copy of the slides, so here they are.

MCA presentation 12-14

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Tune in next time for some of my predictions of what I think the Hot Topics will be for audience development in 2015.

The journey continues.

C