Archive for March, 2011

Create Memories Through Experience

Posted on March 30, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits, Practical Branding | Tags: |

Think back to one of your most vivid memories – perhaps it’s a perfect powder ski day…perhaps a special birthday…perhaps something else. If I asked you to describe the memory, I bet you could pull out the most amazing details to describe it.

Here’s one from me. It was about at least seven years ago…and it was a ski day. It was snowing hard, really hard. The sky wasn’t blue or gray – it was white. I love skiing on really sunny days and extremely snowy days – terrible conditions really challenge me and I get psyched! The snow was pelting my face, the powder was about 10” deep – right at the top of my ski boot – and it was difficult to see very far. It was silent…my skis made no noise at all as they cut through the white stuff. And I was focused. It takes some decent concentration to ski in that much powder, but I remember thinking, “Oh well, if I fall, at least it won’t hurt!” I even have a picture ingrained in my mind of the view (or lack thereof) coming down the mountain, a racecourse on my right, unable to see much farther than 20 feet ahead, and on this is overlaid the thrilling feeling of the challenge.

Do you have a memory like that – a memory about which you can pull up clear details, no matter how long ago it occurred? Most likely, that memory is associated with an experience.  That’s because experiences trigger brain memory and emotions.  And, important in business, experiences, memory, and emotions influence opinions, and opinions often define brands in our world today.

Think about those brands that really stand out for you. Is it because of the product delivered or is it because of the experience that surrounds that product…the way it makes you feel? Nordstrom, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, Disney are all nationally recognized as providers of stellar customer experiences. But that level of experience can happen in an everyday world as well. For me, they are provided by my dentist, by one of the checkers at my local grocery store, and by my Apple store.  Those everyday brands are defined more for me by the experience I receive than by the service or product I buy. I’m not discounting function – it has its place – but the experience is what I remember.

When you think about it, the union of what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience.  And that experience triggers memory and emotion, which then serve to define your brand in your customers’ minds.  In this way, emotion and experience play important roles in defining your brand in the marketplace today. Are you focusing on what your customers see, hear, and touch, and how they interact with you? Think about your memories and pay attention to the type of details you vividly recall.

You want to be remembered? Try making memories through experience.

jkl

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Are You Buzzword Bingo Worthy?

Posted on March 28, 2011. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging | Tags: , , |

Have you ever heard of Buzzword Bingo? It’s a game, somewhat prevalent in corporate America, which was conceived to poke fun at the overuse of buzzwords in place of meaningful concepts or information. It’s not a difficult game to replicate in your workplace – simply create bingo cards and fill the boxes with the corporate jargon you hear every day. When you hear the word, block it out – when you block out an entire row, you’ve got a bingo.

Are you Buzzword Bingo worthy? Consider the following questions:

  • Is your product or service real-timescalable, and user-centric?
  • Do you have the bandwidth to take on more and still reach milestones?
  • Is your company uniquely qualified to offer a particular service?
  • Do you provide world-class solutions to mission-critical challenges that result in a win-win-win situation?

If you tend to use the bolded words in your sales and marketing materials and language, you’re pretty Buzzword Bingo worthy – and that’s not good! In essence, you tend to use jargon in place of relevant words. And that means you’re not creating a clear message for your prospects and customers about how you can help them solve their challenges or meet their objectives. Rather, you’re throwing overused buzzwords against the wall to see what sticks…and, by the way, so are most of your competitors.

So if buzzwords are the confusing norm in the market, think how easy it can be to differentiate your company simply by clarifying your message. And you can clarify your message in three steps:

  1. Choose your words carefully and define them.  People define words and phrases differently…make sure you and your prospects are on the same page by defining the buzzword rather than actually using it. For instance, what does real-time mean?  Is it instantaneous, within an hour, perhaps within half a day or even an entire day…or longer? Who’s to know unless you define it?
  2. Rather than using a buzzword, tell what you help your clients do. For instance, what can your clients do because of the instantaneous information you provide them that they couldn’t do before they had it? Can they plan ahead, react faster, save time, or save money?  Say that! Take that next step and tell what getting that instantaneous information means to them and their business.
  3. Tell a story that proves your claim. Nothing sells like a story. What story brings your claim to life? Tell that story – but no buzzwords please!

Are you Buzzword Bingo worthy?  Please, please, please pass on that “honor!” Clarify your message, tell it in simple, descriptive language, and toss a story, rather than a bunch of buzzwords, to your prospects. Let your competitors win the bingo, you focus on wining the sale!

jkl

 

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The Focus is on “You”

Posted on March 24, 2011. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging |

So it’s really all about you…at least in messaging. In my last blog, I asked you to look at your current sales and marketing materials and see if you were “we-ing” too much. Most companies are. So how do you turn your attention from “we” to “you,” to your customers? For starters, do these three things:

  1. Get into your customers’ minds. What are they on they trying to achieve…what are they on the hook to deliver…what keeps them up at night?
  2. Realize that your solution, although a legend in your own mind, is only good in the minds of your prospects if it helps them sleep again at night.
  3. Identify how your solution helps your prospects overcome their challenges.

Once you have these identified, you can start to get your mind – and your words – around your customer. Do this by focusing your words, whether verbal or written, on your customer rather than on your company, products, and services. Instead of “we developed the greatest [insert product] on the planet, ” try something like this:  “you can overcome the challenge of [insert client challenge] and improve your ability to [insert what they can do better now] with [your solution].

See the difference? The first is all about “we;” the second, all about “you.” And I didn’t just change “we” to “you;” I changed the entire positioning of the solution. As a prospect or client, which would entice you the most? That’s a very simple example, but you get the picture. Take a couple shots at this and see if your message resonates a bit differently, and better, than it did in the past.

jkl

 

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Stop We-ing So Much!

Posted on March 22, 2011. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging, Good Habits |

No, this is not a blog about drinking too much soda! It’s about a different kind of we-ing. This blog is about the habit “we” all have of using the word “we” incessantly in marketing materials.

Take a look at your sales proposals, your marketing materials, your presentations.  How many sentences start with the words “We,” “Our,” or the name of your company?  I’d be willing to bet more than 50% of them, perhaps maybe even nearly 90%. And that’s a symptom…a symptom of being egocentric in your customer messaging.

The default of most companies is to talk about “our history, our product offering, our people, our technology, our solutions, our [fill in the blank].” We do this, we do that, we have something unique. Here’s the problem with that…your customers don’t really care what you have, they care about what you can do for them, how you can fix their problems, how you can solve their challenges.

Try rephrasing your language to focus on your customers. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t simply replace the word “we” with “you.” Rather, you really have to change your mindset. You have to get into your customers’ shoes and understand what they need and want. Your have to realize that your solutions are a means to an end for them. Once you get your brain around these things, you’re off to a good start, but you can’t stop there. Use words your customers use, develop a rapport with them, write to them as if you’re talking to them.

I’ll write more about this in my next blog…until then, take a look at your customer-facing materials. Are you we-ing too much?

jkl

 

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Spring Cleaning Your Business – 10 Things to Do

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits, Management Concepts | Tags: , |

I’m getting Spring Fever. The temperature in Denver was 70 degrees Wednesday and that did it – I’m ready for spring!  In fact, I might even do some spring cleaning this weekend…you know, take a good look at the closets, the cabinets, determine what I need and what I don’t, perhaps even file our 2010 bills (no, I haven’t gotten to that yet).

All this thought of spring cleaning reminds me that I should take a good look not just at my house, but also at my office and my business.  Is it time for your business spring cleaning too?  There’s no time like the present…here are some things to review:

  1. Look at your business plan. Perhaps you haven’t dug it out for a few months, maybe even several years. Are you hitting your targets? If not, why?  If so, what are your next milestones? Create next steps.
  2. Look at your sales projections. If you haven’t made them for 2011, get busy. If you have, how are you doing against them?  Do you need to step up the pace, keep going, set the projections higher?
  3. Look at your offering, whether product or service. Is it a relevant offering in today’s market? How does your competition stack up against you and vice versa? Do you need to add or lose any products or services?
  4. Find your offering’s sweet spot. Build a differentiated message around that sweet spot to be used in your sales and marketing materials.
  5. Systematize at least one WOW factor in your customer experience. Make it happen every time it should.
  6. Talk to your customers. Ask them how you’re doing via survey, focus groups, or just asking them when you see them.
  7. Thank each of your favorite customers with a phone call, hand-written note, or personal token of appreciation.  No form letters or cards, please.
  8. Thank your employees and your colleagues. Without these people, you probably wouldn’t be where you are today.
  9. Take a class or continuing education course in something you need to learn about your business. We all have room to learn!
  10. Get your company involved in the community. Enough said.

These ten things will take some time, just like spring cleaning your house, but they will pay back both professionally and personally.  Shake that winter dust off and welcome spring!

jkl

 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted on March 17, 2011. Filed under: Stories |

An Irish Blessing for You…

May love and laughter light your days,and warm your heart and home.May good and faithful friends be yours,wherever you may roam.May peace and plenty bless your worldwith joy that long endures.May all life’s passing seasonsbring the best to you and yours!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

jkl

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Why Did Groupon Do It?

Posted on March 16, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Differentiated Messaging | Tags: , , , |

Two months after the Super Bowl, people are still talking about the Groupon commercials. If you happen to be one of the few people in this country that didn’t see them, the most controversial ad featured Timothy Hutton highlighting the plight of the Tibetan people – and then suddenly noting that they “still whip up an amazing fish curry,” which Groupon users can get for a great price.

The commercials unleashed immediate backlash on social media websites. People called the commercials “disgusting,” “tacky,” and “vulgar.” What’s really odd about this whole thing is that Groupon actually intended the ads to tell viewers about their “Save the Money,” website, a philanthropic campaign to raise money for a group of organizations, including The Tibetan Fund. But no one, including me, ever got that message. Why was it missing?

Groupon’s CEO wrote on the company website that the intent was to “poke fun at themselves,” not to trivialize the causes. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Groupon blew millions of dollars creating the ads, hiring celebrities, and buying airtime to, in the opinion of millions of viewers, poke fun at the problems of others.

So what did it do for their brand?  The jury is still out.  Some say the ads were a complete gaffe and put a huge dent in the brand, evidenced by untold throngs of people opting out of their email marketing (including the person to whom I was talking two days ago).  Others say the fact that people want to save money these days supersedes bad taste.  And still others say that Groupon got exactly what they wanted – brand recognition for months, whether positive or negative.

The opinions vary, but what doesn’t vary is the fact that Groupon’s Super Bowl ads were not consistent with the brand it had built over the past two years. The company grew out of a collective action and philanthropy site, ThePoint.com, which is focused on doing good.  Groupon had built its reputation through word of mouth and limited online advertising. It was, in essence, “grass roots grown.” Focused on doing good and grass roots grown – not exactly what the commercials relayed, do you think?

Customer experience is a compilation of what your prospects and customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you.  In this case, what Groupon’s prospects and customers saw and heard were in direct opposition to what the supposed “intent,” according to Groupon’s CEO, was. Who missed that dichotomy while the ads were being created? Where was the testing that would have quickly told them the ads were off-brand?

Messages, whether they are communicated verbally, in writing, or in interactions, are important – they can support or devalue your brand. They are worth paying attention to because although a brand takes hundreds of right moves to build, it can be damaged – or destroyed – by one bad move.

Time will tell what Groupon learned from their first foray into the big time. Don’t wait to learn the hard way – take the time and action to ensure your brand is strengthened by what you say and do.

jkl

 

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What Great Companies Have That Others Don’t

Posted on March 15, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I ran across this article yesterday…it’s a great synopsis of brand traits that separate companies that attract Raving Advocates from the rest of the companies out there. Take a peek…

http://www.mycustomer.com/topic/customer-intelligence/shaun-smith-eight-brand-traits-separating-best-rest/121029

jkl

 

 

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How Do You “Spring Forward?”

Posted on March 14, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits |

Did you jump out of bed yesterday morning?  How about today?  That “spring forward” thing can really bite you right where it really hurts, can’t it?

But as I was pondering getting out of bed this morning while it was still pitch black outside, it struck me that “springing forward” is what we should be doing all the time in our business, every day, in every initiative, with every prospect or customer.  When I think of “springing forward” in my role, here’s what it looks like:

  • Looking forward to Monday and truly being excited about going to work
    • If you aren’t excited about what you do, do something else or find a different place to apply your talent and expertise.  We all spend way too much time working to not enjoy what we do.
  • Viewing things that come up as opportunities instead of problems
    • My daily mantra is, “I will embrace the day and everything it offers.”  Some days I have to say it many, many times, but it really helps me approach everything as an opportunity.
  • Always searching for how I can improve what I deliver
    • At the end of each project, I think about how I can improve the next one…and then I apply that. There’s nothing like experience to highlight where you’ve got it – and where you have opportunity (see above not on opportunities vs. problems!)
  • Delivering WOW MomentsTM and Small SignificantsTM for my prospects, clients, and colleagues
    • Homemade cookies are kind of my signature “thing.” I love to bake and cookies bring smiles. And while they are my “thing,” I also look for clues that help me identify times when a Small Significant would make a big impact…perhaps a word of encouragement, a hug, a cup of their favorite coffee…a small action on my part that will make a big impact.
  • Learning, learning, learning
    • Reading, attending a great webinar or conference, talking to people that know much more than me…I learn every chance I have.
  • Challenging myself and trying new things
    • I have a friend who, every year, did something of which she was terrified just to prove to herself she could do it. Now that’s springing forward!)
  • Helping others forward their cause, be it their business, their career, their passion
    • I’m passionate about finding a cure for multiple sclerosis because my mom has it. Over the past 8 years, I’ve raised over $80,000 for the cause.  I didn’t do it alone – many people were there with me, sponsoring me, encouraging me, and helping me. I do the same for others, whether their passion is in their professional arenas or personal lives.
  • And because it’s difficult to be healthy at work if I’m not healthy and home, taking care of my family, my friends, and myself
    • I wish I could say I work out every day, but that would be a tale. But I do try to take care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually, so that I can be at the top of my game in all the things I do.

So even though I don’t like to get when it’s still dark outside, I do look forward to getting to my day, to springing forward to see what lies ahead!

How do you “spring forward” every day?  Share your ideas!

jkl

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Living Your Brand – A Lesson from Apple

Posted on March 11, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I just got an email today from Apple. The new iPad2 comes out March 11th, thinner, faster, and lighter than the “old” model.  This email followed on last week announcing the new MacBook, which followed the new Verizon iPhone, which followed…which followed…which followed. Apple just keeps churning out innovation. And that makes sense. The company has set its sights on being the innovation leader; to provide the coolest, easiest-to-use, cutting-edge computers and electronics.

But the idea of innovation doesn’t stop there. It permeates Apple’s entire brand. Look at the logo – sleek, shimmery, and simple…just like you’d expect. Look at the advertising:  “I’m a PC; I’m a Mac.”  Just as when they first hit the media, the ads stand out among a crowd of underperforming 30-second spots. I still like them years later. And have you visited an Apple store? From the moment you step into the store, you know you’re somewhere different. Little kids play on computers sitting tables 18” high, big kids play on iPads, iPhones, iPods, and MacBooks. Here’s a store where you’re encouraged to mess with the merchandise. Employees are dressed in Tshirts and jeans, just like the Mac guy on the ads. Appointments for the Genius Bar (tech support) or training classes are checked in on iPads. And if you purchase something, you don’t walk to a cash register. No! You stand right where you are while a Mac employee runs your credit card through their phone…and then asks if you want the receipt mailed to you. It’s an experience like no other, and it’s all about innovation.

Talk about a lesson from Apple! Find your market leadership position and let it permeate your entire brand. Bring your brand to life not only through your product or service, but also through what you say and what you do.

jkl

 

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