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

What is YOUR Database STRATEGY?

In a publishing or information services company, every department has data. A lot of it. In different formats. With a range of collected demographics. And wants to store and use it in a variety of ways.

Typical departments can include:

  • Audience development (for the magazines and e-newsletter lists)
  • Events
  • Membership
  • Events
  • Research
  • List Services

Each of these departments has a different view of the database, but those individual views may not be what is best for the entire company database.  If there is no central communication, I envision the blindfolded people around the elephant: each with a completely different view of the animal but no one grasping how complex the animal is.

When reviewing options for how to best house your customer information, it is critical to have someone looking at the STRATEGY of how you want to capture customer data, maintain it, use it in the future. You need that over-arching view as you consider technology options for what is best for the entire organization.

This is not an easy task today. Online customers drive how much information they will offer about themselves to interact with your sites, your offers, your products. And as I have said in previous posts, this can be at odds with the information that advertisers are demanding. Without a strategy, it can be cumbersome and frustrating for internal staff AND customers, who are continually asked for unnecessary data about themselves and sent offers they have no interest in.

There are some database management systems that have incredible front ends for data capture, but the back end of the system is not as nuanced as many business-2-business firms require today. There are some systems that can store and massage your data, but the front end for data capture is severely old-fashioned.

I have been involved in several recent database reviews. I am not sure there is ONE firm that best provides the superior front AND back end services for today’s multi-faceted information services companies. The online interactions and interests of both advertisers and customers are changing so rapidly, it is hard to keep up technology-wise. But, you can combine the services of more than one firm to reach your goals.

Be sure to involve an experienced database manager at the front end of your development process. She can help decipher the needs of the various departments, ask targeted questions to potential database firms, and help determine which systems might work best for your company today to market smarter and maximize revenue. And tomorrow.

The journey continues.

C

Spring Cleaning Your …. Data

Spring, is a time when many people clean out their cabinets, basements, spice drawers, closets. It is a time of reflection, for letting go of some of the past while planning for the rest of the year.

I think we should do this at work too. Take some time to spring clean the data in your database.   While you may regularly look at the segments that bring you the best ROI or your most active customers, I bet you have many other contacts in your database—hidden names, useless names, forgotten names.

If your database cost is based on size, that is a great reason to get rid of old, unusable names. Even if it is not,  random blocks of names can add clutter and confusion as you examine what is in your database. And it can skew perceptions to how big, how usable, and how targeted your customers/prospects lists are.

Separate your data in 3 groups, just like when you clean out your closet. Here is a sample idea of how you can group your data:

The Keep Pile

  • Customers active within the last 2-3 years.
  • Recent prospect lists added to your database.
  • That email opt out list, as much as you might want to get rid of it.
  • Contacts that target any new products you plan to create this year.

The Giveaway (or clean up) Pile

  • Recent (within 2 years) contacts with missing demographics. This can be appended.
  • Contacts missing email or mailing address, or phone numbers. This can be added from outside sources.

Destroy Pile

  • 3+ year names with bad mailing or email addresses.
  • Segments of your file that you no longer serve.
  • Outdated purchased lists that you no longer have permission to use.
  • Duplicate records or data that cannot be merged.

The keep and purge pile definitions will vary based on your targets, your universe, and most importantly, your future needs. But this a simple start to really LOOKING at what is in your database.

Who knows? You may find lists you can re-engage through this process. Remember, it is cheaper to convert old customers into current ones than it is to replace them. It’s like finding that clothing treasure that you find in the back of your closet. Update it, re-purpose it, and it is usable again for very little cost.

The journey continues.

C

Yes, I am a Consultant. And a Business Owner.

I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!

I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals.   If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.

As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:

  1. Get work done on schedule.
  2. Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
  3. Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
  4. Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
  5. Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
  6. Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
  7. Have experience working with different social media platforms.
  8. Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.

Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:

  1. Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
  2. Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
  3. Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
  4. Keep up with billing, processing payments.
  5. Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.

Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.

The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner.  And proud of both.

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

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.

The Customer Service Conundrum

Let’s face it—many departments do NOT want to manage customer service. I see the Customer Service Shuffle take place in media companies often, especially when people change roles.   In a company where 1 or 2 people are tasked with handling customer service, there are debates about where it should be managed—marketing, editorial, general intern, front desk, audience development.

There are some truly talented front line customer service representatives (CSRs). They thrive on helping people, resolving problems all day. But for people who do this work as just part of their job, the tasks of reviewing and forwarding these emails and calls can remain unanswered for days, while that person does other “more important” work.

And what a mistake this can be. If there is a general customer service inbox (phone or email), these requests can be urgent. For a media company, it can be a simple address change or missing issues, or it can be someone who wants to purchase a large number of back issues, have an editorial question, wants to place advertising or host a webinar, alerts you to a technical problem with a website or specific email effort.

As our attention spans become fragmented and we demand immediate response, what does it say when it takes a week or more to respond to a simple request? Simple: we don’t care about our customers. They will get their information next time from another site, another vendor. Not responding to customer service inquiries can lose a company customers.

CSR’s are often the face-of-the-company to new and regular customers seeking advice. CSR’s should be good listeners, problem solvers, multi-taskers, well-spoken and have decent writing skills. When they respond to e-mails, an instant viral message can be one filled with misspellings or incorrect information.

CSR work is also a great way for people new to a company to better understand the products that a company offers, learn where contact deficiencies might be on a website, interact with people in other departments.

Think about the Customer Service Representative role in a different light in your organization. They solve your customer problems all day long.

The Journey continues.

C

Saying Thank You–and Meaning It

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is the time of year when we hear these words at the shops, in email, in person, in cards and gifts from our suppliers, our friends, our family. As a business owner, I think it is important that we remember to thank our customers when they engage with us. Not just once a year.

With the ease of online communications and the ability to set up automated messages, there are a plethora of simple ways and times we can thank our customers. Are you doing this with your customers?  Here are just a couple examples of when we can send thank you messages:

1. When someone signs up for a subscription, an event, makes a purchase, becomes a website member, etc, send them an immediate thank you email or pop up message.

Food52 thank you

The above thank-you for signing up for an e-newsletter discusses topics covered, social media where you can find information, and includes a coupon for additional purchased.  The one below for an online purchase also promotes other products and included a 10% off coupon.

Haymarket thank you email

2. Send a message when an already-placed order ships. The first email below was for placing an order.  The second was a notice that it had shipped.  Several companies I ordered from this holiday season sent multiple status emails, which I think personalizes the online ordering, as well as lets the customer know that the order is moving through the distribution channels.

Zazzle thank you email

Zazzle order shipping

3. A sample from Pure Wow!, and online enewsletter I receive, about changes in their website.

Pure Wow website changes

With overcrowded email in-boxes, think before you create–what is the reason for each message? All emails, including thank-you messages, should have a purpose.

If you choose to send out a last-minute holiday message, what are you promoting? Your company? Upcoming offerings? There is a cost to each email you send–so think before you send it.

And for you readers, thank YOU for reading my blog these past couple of months.  I encourage you to comment, like, share, and send me ideas to write about in 2015.

The journey continues.  C

How–and Why- You can Create Simple Re-engagement Marketing Efforts

How much does it cost to acquire a new customer? While this cost can very depending on the product or service you are selling, some online research includes claims that it can cost 5-7 times the amount to acquire a new customer as to retaining a current customer.  Instead of always reaching OUT to find new customers, there are most likely some unused pockets of customers on your database who you can try to re-engage.

For media companies, there are often current and previous customers that fall into a variety of data silos. Possibly housed on separate databases. This list can include customers from a variety of sources:

  • Current and inactive magazine subscribers
  • Enewsletter subscribers
  • Online and in-person event registrants
  • Research and white paper downloaders
  • Website members
  • App downloaders
  • Social media followers
  • Reprint buyers

Corporate databases are expensive to maintain. And aging. Companies are paying to maintain names they may not be currently using in any efforts. Mine these pockets, find some hidden gold as the cliche goes. These customers were interested in your company in the past. Can you tell what they purchased, when they last engaged? Do you have demographic information you can use as a carrot to send them an offer for a targeted campaign for a magazine, an event?

Here are a couple general ideas other B2B marketers have used to engage older names that you can try.  This first one shows an embedded message in a segment of an enewsletter.

Retail Leader

This was an actual “last issue alert” email for an enewsletter.

smart briefs

Both of these efforts give the list owner an opportunity to see that there is a real person behind that email address.  Also, the link can be an great place to try and capture optional demographic data about the subscriber.

I think re-engagement going to be one of the hot marketing topics for the next 2-3 years, with overburdened inboxes, smaller workforces, and scattered attention spans. Marketers need to figure how we can keep our current customers active and re-engage with previous customers. I expect to write often about this, I think it is so critical to improving a business’ bottom line.

The journey continues.

C

P.S.  I will be expanding on this topic at  next week’s Midwest Circulation Association meeting, in Schaumburg IL.  Details for signing up found at  http://www.midwestcirc.org/