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brand websites showed me 1–how difficult I can be for readers to even find customer service sections and 2– how outdated these web pages can be.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

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

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 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

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.

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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

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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

Jesse Eisenberg and the Creative Process

How do you prefer to write? In longhand, on paper? Or on the computer? Me, I prefer the computer. As a Southpaw, I find I type far faster than I can write as my brain spews out ideas. One downside is that I feel sometimes like I might edit too quickly, losing initial thoughts.

In a recent interview and book signing with actor and first time author Jesse Eisenberg, he said he finds writing on the computer more distracting than all the outdoors. I agree that it is so easy to get lost in that internet rabbit hole, jumping from one link to another.

Eisenberg, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Bill Gates in The Social Network, was in person funny, clever, fast, and felt like he was in constant motion, even when sitting. He was engaging during his interview with Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune, and during his post-talk book signings chatted and joked with everyone.

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He did a hilarious, spot-on reading from his new book Bream Gives me The Hiccups.  Once Eisenberg creates a character, he lets him or her take over the writing.  He learned from acting that “there are no paint by numbers in theater”. He also said that all characters are dealing with an internal issue.

Though I often have to write for business—copy, blog posts, presentations, sometimes I find it difficult to find the time or inspiration for my personal creative endeavors. I find it intriguing to hear about others’ writing process: where they get their ideas, how they manage their projects and creativity.

Eisenberg said to write about what you are interested in, even if it might be obscure. And Caro agreed, saying that when you are trying to write for the reader alone, you will feel it in the product.

As for his transformation from actor to author (he has written plays before), Eisenberg said “I found I was fortuitous finding my path, being rejected from following someone else’s path.” A lesson for us all, I think.

A hope that we can all find our creativity in 2016—whether in writing, photography, art, music, business, decorating, or sports.

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

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.

Business Resolutions

Do you make annual business resolutions? Or an annual business plan that includes non-financial goals you want to achieve each year? This is a fantastic way for small business owners to look up from details, to envision changes they want to see within their businesses or themselves in the next year. For those who work for an organization, this will help you think about where YOU want to be in another year. Are there new skills you can learn this year to propel or change your career? People you can network with? Local organizations you can get involved with?

I have been a consultant for 15+ years. I was so focused on “getting the work done” that until 2013 I didn’t actually write down any business goals. Physically writing them down and then sharing them with others helped me to actually accomplish my 2014 goals.   I spaced them out throughout the year, so I would have time to achieve them.

The goals followed in a logical progression:

  1. Design a new logo to better reflect where I want to go, which you can see on this website. I worked with an independent designer, after laying out new business goals.  She then designed letterhead and new business cards, already in circulation.
  2. Create this company website and blog. Done.
  3. Increase social media presence.  While I have accomplished this here and on Twitter, I hope to do more to see a jump in followers in 2015.
  4. Do more outside speaking and training. I spoke at industry events, including the AAMP and MCA this fall. I was also hired to layout and present a 2-day training session for a vendor, which I did last spring.
  5. The most challenging: changing my business focus, from doing mainly hands on direct marketing work to helping with business strategies, improving clients customer relations and marketing results, building marketing databases (with outside fulfillment/IT management), and training.

The final bullet point above is still a work-in-progress. I underestimated the time it would take to change small business direction, since I feel like I am explaining to prospects WHY they need to look at their marketing in a new way. But, all my speaking and training was focused on this, and I passionately believe that we need to market smarter to improve the bottom line. I sometimes literally envision my business changing like a large ocean liner trying to change directions.  It takes time to do it without tipping.

I am now noodling around several goals for 2015, which I hope to share in the next couple weeks. Again, writing them will keep me focused and honest about them.

Have you already laid out business goals for 2015, or accomplished any in 2014 that you want to brag about ? Don’t be shy, feel free to list them below! It’s okay to be proud of the work we do, when we work hard!

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.

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

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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/

Thanksgiving: Success is in the Preparation

This month I have been inundated with ads, recipes, and media advice about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving meal. This past weekend I was busy myself shopping, cooking, and freezing food for our road tip to see family later this week.

It’s the preparation that makes a feast  like on Thanksgiving successful and satisfying. You can slap together other meals, but for a special meal like Thanksgiving much of the travel-shopping-decorating-cooking is done before Thursday. There will still be cooking to do, but it is virtually impossible to do everything on one day. Unless you have grown 6 arms. Even if you are eating out, be sure to make your reservations early.  Otherwise, you may find your restaurant full.

Running a multi-faceted marketing campaign also requires planning, for outstanding results. Follow this sure-fire “recipe” for planning your next marketing efforts.

First, meet with the stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign to discuss the final goals and budget.

Second, create a marketing plan to reach the goals. This plan should include timing of all efforts, what you plan to test, the list to use, estimated responses and budget.

Third, as you execute the various components of the campaign, record the results of your efforts. That allows you to adjust upcoming efforts and estimated responses as needed.

Fourth, if needed, create a contingency if customers are not responding as well as expected. Can you add an additional email effort? Test a new list segment? Is the tone of message correct? Do your links work properly, on an email effort?

Fifth, Deadline! Hopefully you have reached your established goals by today. If you are still a little short, can you send out a final effort?

Sixth, re-cap your efforts at the conclusion of your campaign. Maybe you came up with ideas to test next cycle, had a standout effort you want to keep for future campaigns, found a way to trim the budget.  Make note of them now, as you will probably not remember them all next time. Or tomorrow.

While the results of the planning will probably not turn out exactly as planned, there should be better results, fewer surprises, less stress throughout, and we can learn from our efforts.

Sit back and enjoy that anticipated meal. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The journey continues.

C

How I am Running my Business more Effectively in 2014

It’s hard to run a successful business. Whether you have 1-5-50-700-25,000 employees, there is always something to be done including the work itself, the innovation, the marketing, the social media, the accounting, the legal work, the networking, the social media.

My friend Naomi, who runs a thriving corporate premium business, and I recently discussed how difficult it is to run a business while trying to get all the actual work done. We work nights, we work weekends, we work vacations trying to stay on top of things.

I told her that I made a decision this year that running my business was actually PART of my business. I would do some of the operational work during the typical 9-5 hours, not always in the evenings. Surprisingly,I have found that I more focused and there are fewer distractions, as long as I turn off email and the phone.

“Don’t you feel guilty?” she asked.

Yes, I did at first, but I find I am using my time wiser. I have accomplished several work goals I established this year, including developing a new logo, this website and blog, and seeking out more speaking engagements, while keeping my clients happy. I still work at least 1-2 evening a week, but it isn’t overwhelming. And I can plan on less-brain-taxing work to do during the nights.

It seems like an oxymoron, but focusing on the business and not just the daily work has improved my work quality and efficiency. Writing this blog has definitely helped me to look at direct marketing, audience development, and business from an outside-in perspective.  And I have had more free evening/weekend time with my family and friends.

The journey continues.

C