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brand websites showed me 1–how difficult I can be for readers to even find customer service sections and 2– how outdated these web pages can be.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

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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

White Papers & Lead Generation-Part 2

Promoting white paper downloads helps media companies offer targeted leads to advertisers, increase their web traffic, and improve their own database. The first part of this 2-part blog post discussed what white papers are, how they are used, and why they are so popular today.

In doing research for that post, I visited many media web sites. I saw a huge disparity in the amount and types of data that firms are collecting for a free white paper download. Brands are asking a range of collecting no data (why? unless you are just looking for distribution quantity, but no ability to follow up) to asking for complete contact information and detailed demographic questions.

What information you require for download will depend on 1—what will help you identify an existing customer or capture a new one 2—what information you need to give back to an advertiser and 3—what demographics you deem imperative to capture for your database, for improved marketing.

One of the quickest registration starters is to ask for just an email address on screen 1.

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If a customer is in your system, then the link where a customer completes contact information can be pre-populated. (ie. their name, company already typed in the boxes). If it is a new customer, then that person completes the contact information form. Below are the page 2 links for the previous screens:
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Notice that above they are collecting some demographic information with the registration questions.  The form still looks short, since the demo questions have drop down options.

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The quicker the process for your customer, the higher the chance they may visit your site again when they have an informational need.

Other questions to consider as you set up your forms:

What other information do you need to capture on the reg form, to make the lead usable for both you and the advertiser? This CFO form is very simple.

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This one includes phone numbers, which I saw required on very few forms.  I wonder if they tested the form to see if that requirement impacted download rates.

CFO detail reg

Do you need a mailing address now? Or can a sales person ask for that data later, once the lead is captured?  That might improve response rates.

For existing customers, are there some demographics missing from their profile? Can you ask for one piece of it when they make a download?

Can you test the questions asked on reg forms? Testing often shows there is a balance of the amount of information collected and the value of the “free” download.

I think that you are limited in your form creation by your front end and back end systems, time to create and manage them, and your imagination.  This process is changing dramatically, driven by both user whims and advertiser demands. The fluctuations may decrease with in a year, but right now I think it’s a bit of the Wild West.  Testing, tracking, changing, test again.

The journey continues.

C

White Papers & Lead Generation—Evolving Daily. Part 1

White papers are reports usually offered as free downloads. The content is a focused topic  that pertains to the creator’s business and that the downloader wants to learn more about. In return for the free white papers, people supply the hosting company with contact information, possibly some demographics.

White papers are a valuable part of the revenue steam and help with brand building, lead generation, and database building.  Many media companies have “white paper” sections on their websites.

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Manufacturers or service providers post white papers on their websites as well.

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However, they often want them posted on media company sites to be introduced to potential customers. By virtue of media companies’ heavy content, many have regular website traffic of people visiting them.

When posted on the media company’s site, the white paper leads are passed to the advertisers.  Vendors are finding these lead generation programs worthwhile, since these are pre-screened prospects. They can try to convert to future sales. Sometimes leads are downloaded directly to the advertiser websites, which can be a missed opportunity for the media company to build its database.

There are 3 main kinds of white papers, with hybrids as well. To keep it simple, I use the “advertiser” to represent the firm posting the white paper and “media company” to refer to the company selling the services and hosting the white paper.

  1. The advertiser writes its own white paper to put on a media company’s website.
  2. The media company does proprietary research with the advertiser to create and execute the white paper.
  3. The media company creates a white paper with its own internally generate content to help build its own client base.

I will ignore the 4th type , which is straight forward sales material. This is NOT a white paper and should be called what it is.

Perusing many websites recently shows that data collection for online white papers is like the Wild West—no protocol, no rules, firms collecting data points from nothing to way more information than people are willing to give for a free download.

Part 2 of this post will include a sampling of the wide range of data collection forms, with pros and cons for each.

The journey continues.

C

Heath Ceramics Factory to My Table

My sister and I spent a recent Saturday morning visiting Heath Ceramics in Sausalito,CA. Made in the US since Heath Ceramics was founded in 1948, I was fascinated to learn the history of the lovely, timeless ceramics created here.

Heath Ceramics

During a factory tour, I was impressed with the obvious passion our tour guide had for the products. She carefully handled cups and vases mid-production as she explained the next manufacturing step. Some of the builders, creators,and glazers have worked there since the 1970’s, a sure sign of loyalty for Heath Ceramics.

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As a business owner, I appreciate how the vision of the founder Edith Heath lives on in the current business. Even with an ownership change in 2003, Heath Ceramics has products at the Smithsonian and other museums, classic styles. They recently took control of their product distribution, after being sold at a high- end retailers like Gump’s.

What lessons for success can a small consulting firm learn from factory tour of a ceramics firm? Many, it turns out–

  • Enduring aesthetics/ design while remaining contemporary
  • Product line transformation and expansion
  • Attention to detail
  • Loyal client base
  • Listening to the customer
  • Willingness to change
  • Staying true to your products/services
  • Changing distribution methods as needed
  • Ongoing quest for improve knowledge and practices

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I purchased a simple white serving bowl for myself (and a couple gifts for friends).  Timeless, useful, and a reminder to always strive for more in my business.

The journey continues.

C

Reviewing your Online Customer Touch Points, Part 2 of 2

My recent blog post discussed how and why you should occasionally review the string of web pages and messages that your customers see when they take an action on your website such as purchasing, subscribing, registering for membership or an event, downloading a paper.

While you are creating the flowcharts in the previous post for each of the customer interactions, look at the follow up messages (if there are any) for tone/format/look. Are the messages consistent? Current? Are you promoting other products?

So often we work in our silos, this is the perfect time to work with other departments. Work together to define a common message/tone to promote your brand the same way. Lay out for each channel the timing and messages a customer will get going forward. You can see a sample layout in the attached tactics slide .

Going through this exercise may seem basic, but it can create more vibrant and interactive thank you messages and follow ups. Here is a perfect example of a revised thank-you page that promotes other brand-related products.  These messages are focused on someone taking an action on your website, so they are already vested in your brand.

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Here is another up-sell sample of ordering the digital edition with bonus material, once someone subscribes to the print:

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Keep your customers engaged with your products.  As our days become busier and information more fragmented, we rely on our go-to brands and websites for information.   Your customers do the same.

The journey continues.

C

No Tricks, 7 Ideas to Add to your Marketing Bag of Treats

Rather than post Part 2 of my blog about using customer touch points today, Halloween seems the perfect day to post a lucky 7 treats for improving your data quality and hopefully response rates to your marketing efforts. Part 2 of Touch Points will be posted next Tuesday.

While some of these seem logical, I am consistently amazed that clients seem to be more focused on emailing to the same lists over an over, or growing their database size, rather than also mine customers they already have.

  1. Do some targeted email efforts to un-engaged past customers on your database, to see if there is still a person attached to that email addresses. A simple click, a profile update, a contest are all efforts you can try, to see if people will re-engage.
  2. How many data silos do you have? Perhaps you incorporate them into one central database, or at least scrub them electronically to see what information you can add to your more used lists.
  3. Test your message, your format, your subject line, your colors used.
  4. On a upcoming offer, ask an additional non-required demographic question such as areas of interest at work, titles, hobbies. You might be surprised what people will tell you that you can use to develop new products, focus marketing to current ones.
  5. Tag and track the type of information that people are clicking on your website.
  6. Append missing demographics that sale is consistently asking for, from an outside source: Dun & Bradstreet, Fortune information, Hoovers, there are MANY list sources you can use.
  7. Hone your social media skills—which ones work best for your brands?

Stick one of more of these ideas into your bag of marketing tricks, to implement this year. No calories in any of them—and varying costs, which can result in a few new customers or improved sales.

The journey continues.

C

Reviewing your Online Customer Touch Points. Part 1 of 2

You create a website. Your prospects and customers visit (you hope) to learn, to buy, to engage. Once built, do you ever re-visit the pages where your customers can take some action, walk their keystrokes? Check the follow up messages that customers receive?

As a marketer, I think it is important to view the journey that our customers take. Enriching their experience, ensuring that we are cross promoting our other offerings can help increase response rates, introduce our customers to new products, improve communications between internal departments, and decrease list fatigue.

Even on an existing site, I think it is a valuable exercise to review the flow of the response-based web pages, for each of your channels (ie. magazine, events, enewsletters, members). There may have been changes made to the flow that we in marketing are unaware of—happens often.

Here is how you or someone on your team can physically document the flow of web pages that customers move through during the purchasing process:

  1. Set up a specific email address, to track follow-up auto-generated emails.
  2. Physically create flow charts, including screen shots and URL’s for each page in the flow—trust me that it will be difficult to keep track of the pages to make changes to, without capturing the URL’s.
  3. Create one flowchart for each marketing channel.
  4. Things to monitor as you go through the process:
    1. Does a “thank you” message pop up when you take a specific action (ie. register as a member)
    2. Keep track of how many follow up emails you get, and the frequency.
    3. Is there cross promotion for other current offerings from your company?

Now that you have these flow charts for each marketing channel, what do you do with them? This will be explored in Part 2 of this blog post, later this week. Know that Phase 1 can take a few weeks to complete.

The journey continues.

C

Improving Use of Customer Touch Points: AAMP synopsis

Last week I was privileged to speak at the AAMP (Association for Audience Marketing Professionals) annual conference in LA.  I had not attended one of their events before; I met, listened to, and networked with many new-for-me industry colleagues. It was enlightening and inspiring.

My presentation had the complicated but very real title of “How to Better Utilize your Brand’s Customer Touch Points to Build Audience Relationships.” As marketers today, I think this truly what we need to do every day as information becomes even more fragmented, email boxes full, our customers’ attention spread across many projects.

We need to build engagement with our current customers, so we become their go-to brand, their go-to website, their go-to media.  We need to continue to show relevance, that we can solve their problem, satisfy a need.  To do this, we need to review and make sure that we are using each touch-point, especially on the web, is enticing.

Our customers want TARGETED offers that show we know where the industry is going, bring knowledge they need.  People are opting out of unfocused messages at an alarmingly high rate.

Internally, departments need to work together to share data, create a common branding message, and stagger sending messages. My presentation gave specific ways to examine your current touch points, improve your  branding and messaging, and why all marketers should be doing this right now.

It’s that simple. And that complicated.

C

P.S. Please comment, email or call if you want a copy of my Power Point presentation.

P.P.S.  Next blog post will include some valuable things I learned from other AAMP presentations.