Know Your Customer, Like You Know Your Friends

Guest Post by Parker Hathaway

customer service friend

I was in a conversation with friend this week. He’s an avid murder mystery and investigative reporting fan. He loves shows like Making of a Murderer60 Minutes20/20, and True Detective. I asked him if he was a podcast fan. He said he wasn’t. With a grin, I leaned in and said, “I’m about to change your month. Have you heard of Serial?”

We need to know our customers like we know our friends.

Serial revolutionized podcasting, coming in with over 40 million downloads in its first season as it followed a murder mystery story week by week. My buddy devoured all 12 episodes and spent countless hours reading on the web about possible theories.

And I had no doubt he would.

We need to know our customers like we know our friends. The question is, how?

Peter McCarthy, founder of The Logical Marketing Agency, has laid the groundwork for us. He describes three buckets that help you identify your customer: (1) Demographics, (2) Psychographics, and (3) Behaviors. You can read more of his work here. For the exercise, take your customer and create the below three buckets and then start asking questions. Here’s a start:

Demographics:

Where do your customers live? What’s their age? occupation? income? political affiliation? urban or rural? gender? ethnicity? These are general questions that you might find on a census. However, you must dig deep. It’s laborious, but it will serve you in the long run. At the end of this exercise you should be able to picture your customer when he/she walks through the door, and that’s huge.

Psychographics:

How do your customers think? What do they believe in? What are their attitudes towards this or that? What are their preferences? What do they love? hate? crave? What are their emotions towards a given topic? What do they value? What gets them excited?! Make a list of emotions and attach a description of your customer to each. Use what you learn to write better copy or apply it to the design of your website or, better yet, your product! When we say “we feel,” we attribute a cognitive value. Learn what your customer feels.

Behaviors:

This is where things get exciting, especially if you have access to a large data depository. What does your customer do? What do they purchase? read? use? crave? search? How do they engage with social media? Instagram more than Facebook? Twitter more than Snapchat? What are patterns that you find with your customers? Why do they drop out at point of purchase? Use A/B testing as a tool to discover behaviors.

Next time: Identifying your customer can be laborious, but it’s crucial for risk mitigation and customer growth. I’m going to introduce you to tools that will help you to identify your customer in 30 minutes. These tools are free and fun to use!

‘Hire’ This Article About Milkshakes If You’re Struggling To Understand Customer Needs

Guest Post by Gaston Viau

How the Job-To-Be-Done theory can help you understand consumer behaviors and provide you an innovation compass

There are zillions of words written about how customer centricity leads companies to success.

However, the “customer-centric” term is sometimes misused as a catchall for customer feedback or customer satisfaction results, but making people happy is not enough. To have sustained success, companies must genuinely understand what the customer wants and needs, and implement the right internal and customer-facing processes, strategies and marketing actions to satisfy them.

Hands down, the best example of customer centricity is Amazon, whose mission says it all: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company”.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon

Last month, when struggling to define our customer personas at Virtual Lab better, Fede Boero recommended me to read Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen. This read introduced me to “Jobs-To-Be-Done” Theory, a way of looking at customers with a completely different lens which shed a lot of light on my discovery process.

Jobs Theory

“Job-to-be-done” involves a mindset change since it forces you to look at our product the way customers do. Clayton Christensen described this concept back in 2006, in this paper he wrote together with Intuit founder Scott Cook.
The theory just asks, “What job your product is hired to do?”.

People buy services and products to get specific jobs done; and while products come and go, the underlying JTBD doesn’t go away. A commonly used example is that people do not want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter inch hole.

JTBD theory is a change in the lens we use to understand customer needs. The Job, not the consumer, is the fundamental unit of analysis.

To understand what’s the Job our product is hired to do, we need to find which progress the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance — what the customer hopes to accomplish. This growth or accomplishment is the job-to-be-done.

All of us have endless jobs to be done in our lives. Some are small (pass the time while waiting in the supermarket line); others are big (seek a more fulfilling job). Some are regular (pack some lunch early in the morning before leaving to work); some show up unpredictably (find a nearby auto repair shop after our car broke up during a trip). When buying a product, we’re mainly “hiring” it to help us do a certain job. If the product does the job well, we tend to hire that product over again when we confront the same job. On the other hand, if it does a crappy job, we “fire” it and look for a replacement.

The Milkshake Example

The canonical example used by Christensen to explain Jobs Theory is a milkshake.

Some years ago, McDonald’s was trying to increase the sales of their milkshakes. So, they would interview milkshake customers and explain to them that they were trying to improve the milkshakes to increase the sales. They would ask them if they would like bigger milkshakes, or new flavors (like root beer or orange), chocolatier or thicker milkshakes . However, after improving the milkshakes with the interviews results, they found that customers didn’t buy more milkshakes.

Christensen was hired as a consultant to help McDonald’s to nail this problem, and he applied his brand new Jobs Theory to solve it. To understand which job arose in the lives of some customers that caused them sometimes to hire a milkshake, Christensen studied a McDonald’s restaurant for 18 hours one day. It turned out that about half of the milkshakes were sold before 8:30 in the morning. It was the only thing the customer bought, they were alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it.

To figure out what was that job, Christensen went back the next morning and positioned himself outside the restaurant so to confront these milkshake customers as they came out. He asked them: “What job are you trying to get done that cause you to come to McDonald’s to hire a milkshake at 6:30 in the morning?”

It turned out that they all had the same job to do. That is, they had a long and tedious drive to work. And they just needed something to have while driving to stay engaged with life and not fall asleep. The customer wasn’t hungry yet, but they knew they’d be hungry an hour later. So they needed something they could hold with their right hand while driving, and keep it for the whole commute.

This analysis showed that McDonald’s milkshakes were not competing against Burger King’s milkshakes. They were competing against bananas, snickers, donuts or even bagels to do the same job. However, milkshakes were much more convenient than their competitors since they were easier to consume, only one hand was needed, and they were so viscous that it would take them the whole commute to finish them up with that thin straw.

Customers didn’t care about the ingredients. All they cared about was to be still full at 10 am and have something to entertain them throughout their trip.

Unveiling what the job was, put McDonald’s on a very different trajectory. It explained the reason why there were no results after improving the milkshake on dimensions of performance that was irrelevant to the job-to-be-done

To improve the milkshake for the morning JTBD, McDonald’s moved the milkshake from behind the counter to the front. To help them not to be late for work, they also gave people a prepaid swipe card so they could just dash in, gas up, and go without being caught behind a line. They also made milkshakes thicker to take longer to suck them up, and so on.

When McDonald’s understood that they were competing against bananas, the sales of the milkshakes increased by 7x.

Four Takeaways

JTBD theory tells us how managers should think about customers, strategy, products, growth, and innovation. Here’re some pieces of advice:

1. Design a business around a JTBD

Products become obsolete, and this is why companies should instead create a business around the JTBD, which will lead them to sustainable success. This is why Ford moved from an auto company to a mobility & transportation company, opening the doors to markets such us ride-sharing.

2. Let customers get their entire job done

People do not want to have to put together diverse services or products to achieve their needs. They want only one service/product that helps them get the entire job done.

3. Target those customers who will pay the most to get the job done best

When a market is highly underserved, the fastest way to profits is first to target the people who will pay out the most to get that job done the best.

4. Let Jobs Theory guide the future of your company

The only products that will win the future are those that help customers get the job done better. Understanding where customers struggle today to execute the JTBD indicates what a particular product needs to do in the future to win in that market.

6 of the Best Strategies to Ace Customer Engagement

Guest Post by Shane Barker

No matter what field you work in, customer engagement is just as essential as lead acquisition. In fact, 68% of marketers today say that their companies compete on the basis of customer experience.

However, many marketers still struggle with figuring out the best ways to keep their customers engaged; holding the attention of customers long enough to make an impact can be hard, time-consuming work. While old-school newsletters still have their place, they alone can’t cut it anymore in today’s competitive environment.

So, what can you do to differentiate yourself from the competition and keep your customers coming back for more? Let’s take a quick look at a few options that you can consider. Not all of these are easy and some may not suit the kind of business you run, so pick what works for you. While some options may not be cheap, losing loyal customers will be far more expensive in the long run.

1. Start an Employee Advocacy Program

Your employees are the face of your brand, and their interactions with your customers can go a long way in retaining them. If they’re excited by your brand and believe in the products you have to offer, the customers they talk to will feel that. Conversely, if they are demotivated or unhappy, your customers are definitely going to pick up on that negativity.

An employee advocacy program can help shape your company’s reputation and culture online. By having your employees share snippets of their work life on social media, they can help to build your company’s image as a great workplace with an honest, hard-working team. Not only that — you can even leverage the knowledge of your subject matter experts to create content that has depth and authority.

To encourage participation, you can maintain leaderboards and offer incentives to employees who post the most or get the most engagement. Shoe retailer, Zappos, is well known for their employee advocacy program — snippets of which you can see on the official Zappos Culture Twitter.

2. Keep Customers Emotionally Connected

The best way to keep a customer engaged is to find ways for them to interact with your brand, even when they aren’t necessarily interested in buying one of your products. You can do this in a number of ways.

Build a Community

Build a sense of community around your product or service using free tools, such as a designated Twitter handle, Facebook Group, or other online forums where people can meet and exchange ideas.

The idea is to draw your customers into a social circle that is based on the love for your brand or products. Not only are people in these groups more likely to continue buying your products because others are passionately sharing about them, but they’re also likely to recommend them to their other social circles. Their involvement in the community will ensure that they are fully aware of your latest offerings with little marketing effort needed from you.

As an example, BMW manages official “Owners’ clubs” that help their customers connect and learn from one another. Their clubs have grown a big reputation for offering exclusive content, advice, and rewards for car lovers who buy from their brand.

Host Live Events

Hosting events,conferences, or webinars that will be of interest to your customers is a great way to engage them in a non-transactional setting. Many gaming studios take advantage of in-person events to meet and get feedback from some of their most loyal fans. For customers, it’s an opportunity to see what the company is working on, meet like-minded individuals, have their voices heard by game developers, or play demo builds of upcoming games.

BlizzCon by Blizzard-Activision and QuakeCon by Zenimax Media both draw in thousands of attendees each year. And tens of thousands more people watch the live-streams of the events online. Attending larger conventions is also an effective (and much cheaper) way to engage with your fans. However, hosting your own event is a great way to keep the focus entirely on you and your products.

3. Gamify the Customer Experience

While gamification of a customer experience can be difficult, it allows you to engage customers using the sense of instant gratification.

Digital contests and giveaways are great ways to spur customer engagement for mutually beneficial results. For instance, hair accessories company Whirl-a-Style hosted a web contest asking customers to share their #WhirlMyStyle hairdos for a cash prize. The company earned tons of customer testimonials and marketing UGC at a very low cost.

Similarly, you can introduce badges or achievements for customers who’ve hit a certain milestone or completed a particular task while using your products. This is incredibly useful when it comes to making sure they use your product or services often.

Gaming is already well known for the concept of unlocking achievements. Companies like Fitbit and other fitness tracker makers have had good results by introducing similar aspects to their products.

4. Target “Whales” for Customized Services

Loyalty programs are a great way to help keep customers engaged with your brand. But you can take it one step further with a tiered loyalty program. Identify customers who spend significantly more than average on your products and consider giving them some sort of V.I.P. status.

While more loyalty points or discounts are nice, customized services are even better. For example, access to a personal stylist at a clothing retailer who offers expert advice in styles suiting body types and personalities.

A personal touch is extremely valuable when it comes to instilling a sense of loyalty in your customers. While you may not be able to offer that to all your customers, make sure your “high-rollers” feel like they’re getting V.I.P. treatment.

5. Be Socially Responsible

Often maligned by older generations, millennials tend to be more environmentally and socially conscious than any other generation. (And considering that millennials are already the largest generation in the labor force, their loyalty will soon determine whether your business lives or dies.)

Millennials are far more likely to support brands that not only offer valuable products but also support social or environmental causes.

Consider picking a cause that you are interested in and promoting it regularly in your marketing efforts. It can be anything you want as long as you care deeply and sincerely about it. The sincerity is important because millennials are better than previous generations at spotting disingenuous marketing.

For example, Leesa donates a mattress to a homeless shelter for every tenth mattress sold. They even plant a tree for every order received.

6. Streamline Your Customer Experience

This option probably takes the most effort to put in place. Depending on how your business operates, it could require small changes or a total overhaul. The key here is to reduce the number of steps needed to complete a transaction. This applies to both physical and online stores.

Every step required to complete a purchase increases the likelihood of customers walking away from a purchase. In stores, these could be long lines, a slow checkout process, or lack of assistance to help make choices.

Fast food giants like McDonalds have attempted to improve the experiences of their customers with the addition of self-service kiosks. These help to drastically cut wait-times without needing to increase staffing requirements.

Online, Amazon introduced 1-click ordering, allowing existing customers to purchase items with a single click. This uses billing, delivery, and payment information that’s already linked to their account.

Another great way of improving your customer experience and managing excellent relationships is to use a CRM tool. Tools like Salesmate allow you to keep all of your customers’ contact information in one place. You can use it to run email campaigns that include informative and highly-targeted content. You can even do timely follow-ups for any sales queries or interest they may have shown.

Orginally published on Zoomph.

About the Author

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, product launches, sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.

Build Customer Empathy by Listening to Their Stories

Guest Post by Demian Borba

Whenever I start a conversation with someone, I think about how I can best connect with that person. Sharing stories is an excellent way in.

Stories not only reveal details about the storyteller, they allow you to connect on an emotional level. In fact, the connection may go even deeper.

study at Princeton found that during storytelling the brain activity in persons listening to a story closely matches that of the person telling it.

The analysis revealed that during successful communication the listener’s brain responses become similar to the speaker’s brain responses. This implies that people understand each other by mirroring each others’ brain responses. (Image courtesy of Uri Hasson during the Princeton study).

Stories can help create alignment. They can take you along on the roller coaster of the storyteller’s experiences, letting you in on the highs and lows, successes and defeats, and, importantly from a product manager standpoint, the needs and pain points they hit when working with a particular product.

As I noted in an earlier post, design thinking aims to build products people want, products they’ll find useful, and products that can reasonably be built given current technology. It’s the process that’s guided development of Adobe XD from the beginning.

Design thinking seeks to identify needs rather than solve problems. It follows five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Empathizing with your customers means understanding where they’re coming from, what their needs are, and where the pain points are. We are not looking for hard truths here — we’re seeking insights.

To build empathy, we can lean on several anthropological techniques: watch people as they perform an activity, experience performing that activity ourselves, or conduct interviews with a selected subset of the people we want to learn about.

Successful interviews draw out stories; and successful interviewers know how to ask questions without getting in the way of the story.

Seek quality over quantity when collecting customer stories

Because stories are subjective, interviews must be qualitative, not quantitative. Rather than quick interviews with 100 people, you get better insights by talking to fewer people for a longer time. When forming your interview pool, look for a good mix of experience and interests.

For example, if your target number is 10, you might recruit six designers who fall within the mid-range of users and two to four “extreme users” — long-time users who have seen the products through multiple evolutions, or designers who use the products in an unusual way.

When interviewing, I typically follow a step-by-step process, outlined in the chart below.

First, I introduce myself, then the project and its purpose.

The next — and critical — step is to establish rapport, finding those moments in a conversation where you connect with your subject. You can create these connections through stories. Stories allow you to explore emotions and identify pain points.

Remember, you’re not trying to solve problems here; you’re just looking for the needs, driven by what users say or do, and by what users think or feel. Try not to limit your interview to a set time — allow time for the interview to evolve.

When you’ve finished, wrap it up, thank the interviewee, and you can move on to unpacking your findings and creating empathy maps.

Here, I’ve listed some practical tips for conducting interviews that can lead to powerful customer stories.

Get authentic customer stories with these nine interview techniques

1. Ask open-ended questions

Think about how you phrase your questions. Avoid starting with comments like “you know” or “normally,” which can influence the response. Ask open-ended questions such as, “tell me about the last time you did x or y.” This type of question will encourage your subject to tell a story rather than just answer “yes” or “no.”

Even if the stories aren’t true, they can reveal what the person thinks and feels. Moreover, in telling a story, the interviewee is likely to recall details he or she may have forgotten.

2. Always ask why

Be the curious kid. Even if you think you understand what the interviewee is describing, ask why.

In another post, I describe the five whys framework — that is, by asking five whys, you can get to the root of any problem. Never assume!

3. Look for inconsistencies

Sometimes, interviewees will describe a process that they don’t follow or make statements that aren’t true. You can usually tell based on their answers.

Inconsistencies are important because they can lead to insights about implicit needs — perhaps they’re explaining how something could be done better, if only . . .

4. Look for nonverbal signals

If the person you’re interviewing is fidgeting, twirling their hair, or avoiding eye contact, it’s possible that what they’re saying isn’t 100 percent true. There’s a vulnerability in not telling the truth, and it’s worth exploring.

People tend to act out how they feel, especially when they’re uncomfortable or nervous.

5. Don’t be afraid of silence

This can be one of the hardest tips to follow. It’s natural to want to help someone if you think they’re stuck or unsure. If your interviewee is silent after a question, give him or her time to think through the answer. It may take a minute or two, but be patient. You’ll get a better response.

6. Never suggest answers

Stay as neutral as possible. Often, if you propose an answer, the person you’re interviewing will agree, whether or not it’s what he or she wants or feels.

Instead of asking, “This is a good idea, right?” say, “What do you think of this?” or “How might you do this?”

7. Keep your questions concise

Long questions lose people. They’re confusing and people often aren’t sure which part of a multi-layered question to answer first.

As a general rule, I try to limit questions to 10 words.

8. Stick to one question at a time and one person at a time

It might be faster to interview several people together, but you’ll lose out on quality. Interviews are most successful when they’re one on one, so resist the urge to pull your teammates in as well.

Don’t overload the interview with multiple questions. Take your time and make sure each question is answered before moving on to the next.

9. Be sure to record the conversation

You’ll want to save the conversation for later unpacking. You can use audio, film, video, or even have someone sit in taking notes. You get the most immediate and authentic feedback when interviews are in person because there’s typically more friction when people meet face to face. However, interviews over Skype or the phone can yield great material as well.

Putting on your anthropologist hat at this first phase of design thinking will help you gather the stories you need. And those stories will ultimately help deliver products that meet the design thinking goals: desirable, usable, and technically practical.

“Always Start With The Customer Experience, Not With The Technology” Former Apple CEO John Sculley Shares The Secrets Of Steve Jobs’ Success

Guest Post by Yitzi Weiner at Authority Mag

We had the pleasure to have a conversation with Jon Sculley, the former CEO of both Pepsi and Apple

Thank you so much for your time. You have been at the helm of two legendary companies, Pepsi and Apple. Do they have a common denominator? Can you break down the recipe for their success?

John Scully: In 1970 I was 29 years old and Pepsi was out sold 10 to 1 by Coca Cola in 50 percent of the U.S. At the time, I was in charge of the U.S. operations and we realized that Coca Cola was the most valuable brand in the world. So we saw that Coca-Cola owns reality but perception leads reality, so if we can own perception, then maybe we can change the ground rules of competition, and we did that by creating a campaign called the ‘Pepsi Challenge’, which was quite different than anything that anyone was doing in marketing at that time. Instead of the company saying, look how good my product is, we did just the opposite. We said, take the Pepsi Challenge, let your tastes decide, and we had a blind taste test that would run all over the country and people would see that it was a real taste challenge between Pepsi and Coke. By the end of the 70’s, Pepsi had passed Coco Cola and become the largest selling consumer packaged goods in America.

When I first met Steve Jobs in the early 80’s, he came up to me and said, “How did you do that? You had no money to speak of it, Pepsi. “How did you pass Coca Cola?” And I responded, “Well, we call it experience marketing.” The focus was on selling the experience, not the product. Jobs expressed that he wanted me to Apple and teach him how to do that. Steve was building a product at that time, and it was under development. It wasn’t brought to life yet, to be called ‘Macintosh’, and it was for creative people — non-technical people, to do amazing creative things. He stated that he wanted to learn how to sell the experience such as I did previously. The experience is more important than the product.

The thing I learned in both Pepsi and Apple was that you always start with the customer experience. Steve said, “I don’t focus on the technology. I focus on what’s in it for the customer. I want to give the customer an incredible experience.” He used to call it an ‘insanely great experience. Whether it was the “Pepsi Challenge” or whether it was the Macintosh.

The early advertising project we worked on started with the 1984 Super Bowl commercial, which was the first a mega commercial ever done on the Super Bowl. We were always starting from the perspective of what’s in it for the customer.

You look at people today, like Jeff Bezos, he does the same thing and focuses on what’s in it for the customer. He always says, “My customers are amazingly loyal until someone else offers them a better deal. With so many tech companies that start with cool technologies tend to forget that the technology ultimately mock commodities. So it’s always what’s in it for the customer, always the experience.” I find that the great companies can turn into legendary companies.

I think so because back when Steve was, I remember I met him when he was 26 years old and he was still forming his principles and the foundational principles. The early 1980s can be found and is still the foundational principles of Apple today.

Steve believed that you had to do what he called a ‘zoom in, zoom out.’ You connect the dots, zoom in to simplify and if you look at Apple, the innovation always takes place at the convergence of different industries. So here was Kodak in 2007, who had actually invented the digital camera and was actually the largest photo finisher printer in the world. They doubled down on silver halide manufacturing because they were in a marketing battle with WalMart with a single use film camera.

Steve Jobs was looking beyond and he said, I can connect the dots between 3G wireless, which was just coming into the world of wireless. 2G was fax, 3G could do other things, including photos. He understood miniaturization of consumer electronics because he built the iPod before the iPhone. He said, “Do you know if I can connect the dots and put a phone chip in an ipod to make the screen bigger, I think that will give the ability for people to be able to send photographs, wirelessly.

It seems so obvious, right?” So most of the brilliant people that I’ve had a chance to work with are really seeing possibilities ahead of the rest of us that are completely obvious when we understand them and if you think about what Steve Jobs created during his lifetime, all this success, it seems so obvious today. They weren’t obvious in the context of the world that he was living in at that time.

When he brought me to Silicon Valley, nobody was talking about marketing. Nobody was talking about a consumer experience. Nobody was talking about the creative tools for non-technical people and yet it’s obvious today. That’s what the world is largely about. I always remember one of my favorite professors at MIT media lab was Marvin Minsky, and Marvin is known by many as the father of artificial intelligence, but he also, had to bring an insight that I still remember. He said, you don’t really understand something well until you understand it more than one way and just going back to Steve Jobs, Steve had a curious mind. He was curious about everything. He was not actually an engineer.

If you saw the first Steve jobs movie that Ashton Kutcher was in, I remember Ashton came up to me, a month and a half ago. We were at an event together and he said what you think of my Steve jobs and I said, well, actually it was OK, but I said it really hurt Wozniak his feelings. He said, what do you mean? I said, you made Wozniak into a service tech and you made Steve Jobs an engineer. Steve wasn’t the engineer. Steve was the brilliant genius who conceptualized and had a great sense of design, all Wozniak ever wanted to be was the world’s greatest engineer. You crushed him. So you have to appreciate that. What makes people like Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs, along a few others, could work with her left brain and work with their right brain to start connecting the dots. Steve, who founded and led the most valuable technology company in the world, said that, the lesson he learned is how important the humanities are in leading and creating a great company and meeting that, art, design are just as important as the technology.

Rarely Apple is the first at doing anything in technology. Most of Apple’s technology is actually gotten from somebody else, Bill gates used to come to me and said, I just don’t understand why Steve gets so mad at us copying the Macintosh user interface when he stole everything that Apple has from Xerox, Palo Alto Research Center.

One of the things you find with talented people is they have no embarrassment about borrowing great ideas from someone else and why should they? You stand on the shoulders of the people who came before you.

Which social impact issues are important to you? How do you bring your values to your work?

John Scully: Well, I am really maybe the last person standing in my generation from high tech who’s still actively working. I don’t run companies anymore, but I mentor talented people who I think have the potential to change the world. So for instance, up in Boston, I spent a great deal of time up there now because I’ve been working with the founder of a company called RX advance . He’s building an absolutely amazing company in healthcare and it all starts with a noble cause.

So many people start with a business plan. No, you start with a noble cause. You start with something that’s going to make a difference in the world. It almost made you want to start with the people who are going to use whatever you are creating a product or service which was following the customer and it always starts with having a curiosity that has to be a better way. So I’m inspired by anything that will stimulate curiosity, anything that will show that the power of diversity is so incredibly important to innovation. I’m only involved with companies that have the potential to be transformative in their industry sector. So when I see that there is discussion in the government that we want to shut out immigrants to come into the United States and when I know that in Silicon Valley, maybe 70 percent of the leadership of companies in Silicon Valley are actually immigrants. It just sounds like, wow! How could anyone even think that way? So I think that what makes America great and I’m proud to be an American, is that we have been a country with an open mind, a country that has been willing to, invite people of talent and merit, who will work hard to come in and participate. So I hope we will be able to say that in the future. I hope that we realize that our education system is still designed for a different century and a different economy, and that if America is going to be as successful in this century as it was in the last century, then we need an educational system that has foundational context with the exponential technologies that are available.

I grew up in Silicon Valley, in the early days of Moore’s law for a while. We have robots, we have artificial intelligence, we have precision medicine, we have driverless cars where you had the world of sensors and all these things are growing at an exponential rate or change. So simply put that compounding math that means you go 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32. So the speed at which exponential algorithms compound is hard for most people to absorb because we’re all used to linear time, we’re not used to exponential time and yet the world we’re living in today. Anyone who was young and is going to be living through the rest of the century is going to be better understood in exponential time, which puts a stress on learning, on curiosity, on education, on diversity, thinking about things in a different way and so I try to mentor when I can, people who are going to be part of that world.

Throughout our careers, we’ve all run into roadblocks, so can you tell me about a time that you failed and how did you motivate yourself to get back up and keep going?

John Scully: What you will discover is if you believe in making a difference, you’re bound to make a lot of mistakes and some people would just risk averse. They don’t like making a mistake. They don’t like to be humbled, embarrassed. They don’t like to have to pick themselves back up and try again, maybe they aren’t going to want to participate in the entrepreneurial life, but for a lot of us we know that you can’t be a successful entrepreneur unless you were prepared to make mistakes. The thing that takes awhile to really understand is that you’re probably more trapped in your successes. We often become a victim of our success because we often misinterpret why we were successful. Now a good deal of the time people are successful just because they were in the right place at the right time and so something goes well which will lead them into thinking they are genius. They misunderstand why they were successful. So it’s only when you fail that you actually get a chance to kind of get the wind knocked out of you and say, OK, that didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? What did I do wrong? So failure is so integral to the process of deep learning. Success actually can be a distraction and it can take you off in a different way. So my advice is get comfortable with making mistakes.

Now, many countries have cultures where making mistakes is not acceptable. If you’ve been to Germany and spend any time there, Germans don’t want people to believe that made mistakes. It’s a very competent economy. It’s much disciplined. It’s very process centric, it plays by the rules, but it doesn’t have much of a place for people who make mistakes. That’s quite different than our culture where we say, OK, you made a mistake. If you’re in Silicon Valley and you say, boy, I made a mistake, I blew it. The first thing somebody will ask you is, well, what did you learn? And so culture is a very big part of being successful. It’s not that the U.S. has smarter people than the rest of the world; it’s just that we have a culture that’s very forgiving in terms of making mistakes and picking yourself back up and try again. So I’ve made lots and lots of mistakes.

I’ll give you some examples. I remember when we were at the end with the 68,000 microprocessor, which Motorola made and the Macintosh was based on a system processor, which meant there was a complex instruction set computer and if you look at what was happening back in the late 80’s, there was a lot of attention going on with risk reducing instructor set computing. So when I went to our best engineers and I asked, what should we do? We were at the end of life on this microprocessor. They said, well, actually you can choose any risked machine you want, doesn’t make a difference which one. Risk is the future. Just don’t pick a system process. At that time, Andy Grove was coming over and making a pitch that we ought to adopt the Intel processor and in those days Intel was not a floating point processor. It was integrated based, meaning he was integer arithmetic and it wasn’t designed to do graphic algorithms. So we made a mistake. I made the mistake because I was the CEO, we didn’t go with Intel and we ended up going with the power pc, which was a joint venture between Motorola and IBM. The big mistake was that we didn’t consider that the huge industry that Intel had created for all kinds of blue chips and other components, but things around it which will all available by various companies along South East Asia. That it wasn’t just the microprocessor that we should be focusing on. When we made the decision to go from one to another, it was the entire system and the reality was by going to the IBM power pc, which at the time technically may have been better microprocessors than the Intel assist processor. The reality was the economics couldn’t even come close to the complete system bill of what you could do with an Intel processor because of all those other related components that sat around it to make it a complete computer. So that was a terrible mistake because it set Apple on course in a direction that was eventually going to mean that it was going to be less and less competitive with the rest of the computing world.

Steve Jobs was running Next, at that time, he made the same mistake. He went with the power pc as well with next. Next was not a very big company and unfortunately for Next almost went bankrupt. They had to drop out of the hardware business, but kept going with its software operating system, which ironically when Steve came back to apple years later, ended up becoming the Kernel for the Mac operating system.

Who is your hero in your business or personal life and how do they inspire you to become the person that you are today?

John Scully: My biggest hero is my wife Diane. Diane is a computer scientist. She’s also a mathematician, but what she has done for me is that for many years after I left Apple, I sort of disappeared. I was working in investing in startup companies, sort of staying out of the limelight and just going on with my life then when I met Diane, it was about 10 years ago and then we got married five years ago, she completely changed my life, really our life. She said, John you’ve been so lucky, you’ve been working with some of the most talented people on the planet and you need to share those experiences with other people. So we started going around the world that we had various invitation.

So we were invited to Chinua University to speak there, same lecture that Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg were invited to ETH in Switzerland, which is the top technical school. We were invited to MIT many times. I’ve been involved with at MIT for many decades through the MIT media lab and what I realized was that I wasn’t out of date, that actually the things that I had experienced were actually of interest and of some value to the next generation, so when I say I’m sort of the last person standing from my generation because everyone else is either retired or dead, I’m still very, very active and I spend my day, I am up every morning at about 5:00 AM, reading a lot and communicating with people. I love talking with people as we’re doing right now and my goal in life now is to work on a few noble causes, but also to be able to mentor and to pass on what I experienced in hopefully useful ways to people in your generation.

My company is celebrating its 10 years in business and we’ve always had perpetual growth. One thing that really struck a chord with me, which you’re talking about, was the challenges and how you face those. I’m in the Whitewater right now. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that terminology, but I’m about $5,000,000. I’m trying to break through 10 or 15. I’m really trying, but there’s this barrier here and I’m ready for that and I know you have much bigger business experience, but I feel like the principals in the set and so I don’t know what kind of advice or things that you recommend for me, how to look at myself, our company maybe introspective with find a way to break through that because it’s something I really would like to do.

John Scully: So here’s what I’d say is that people who are in big traditional corporations have very, very little personal experience if any, with true innovation, and it’s not that they aren’t smart people or hard working people or competent people, it’s that they’re trapped in cultures. The one thing that every large company has in common, it’s culture, is that it empowers middle managers with the authority to say no and being an entrepreneur is all about the thinking of the possible ways you can get to yes and so it always amazes people in big companies to realize that when I was working with Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple and Apple was still in a several houses, it had tilt up building with a pirate flag flying over, which was Steve Jobs office for the Macintosh, the average age of the people on the Macintosh team, they were over 100 of them in total, including manufacturing and everything else was 22.

People just assume that companies like Apple and Microsoft were always big companies. They weren’t always big companies. They were at one point they were $1,000,000 companies. There were $5,000,000,000 companies. The Silicon Valley has an old saying, what got us here, won’t get us there, meaning when you’re starting out and you’re trying to get to $1,000,000 revenue, let’s say, you have to get through proof of concept. You got to recruit enough talent around the table to be able to deliver something that’ll get revenue and the bigger question then becomes, so how do we get from 1,000,000 or 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 to 20,000,000 or even larger? And you realize that you sometimes have to go back and deconstruct what you’re doing and think about when we solve this business at a $20,000,000,000 business the same way we’ve been solving it successfully as a $5,000,000 business and what’s so important about what I learned working with Steve Jobs was that you lay down foundational principles. One of Steve’s principles was you have to have a very clear focus. This focus was how do we build bicycles for the mind? Now that’s what he was really building bicycles for the mind. He didn’t think of it as building personal computers, he thought about he’s going to enable people to have this incredible accelerator which is going to help them think and do things that you couldn’t do before the Macintosh came around and why was the Mac so important to Steve? You know, the Apple 2 had been a huge success. He said, well, the Apple two was so limited because you require that someone, you know, learn how to use a keyboard. They had to learn how to use alpha-numeric commands. He said with the Macintosh, they don’t need to know anything about technology. So he had to re-conceptualize what is a personal computer and he said it’s all about point and click and he would use metaphors, he’d say, well, you know, we need to have a desktop metaphor. We need to have file folders. We need to have, ways of thinking about paper and putting objects on paper and things like that. Well, those sound so obvious to us today, they weren’t obvious almost 40 years ago. So I would say think about why you’ve been successful as a $5,000,000 business, and then say will a $5,000,000 business be solving the same problems when it’s a $20,000,000 business as it is at a $5,000,000 business. Will it be a different customer? Will the customer be using your service or product differently? Are there other things going on around the world, around the economy, which will make things possible for you to solve even bigger problems? And you have to stretch your mind. Always be curious, always observing.

I know a lot of people have said, John, you’re so lucky. You got to work with all these talented people. You were working in different industries. You’re still doing it. How come you’re so much luckier than the rest of us? And the answer is because I’m constantly observing, constantly curious. I think about learning is much more important to me than making money and you’ll find that particularly in the century you’re going to live the rest of your life in this 21st century, that the ways that we think about things are going to be so fundamentally different than anything that was around when you were born.

Think of something as simple as this. The prior industrial age was enabled by two things. The distribution of electricity, now going back to a Tesla and Westing house, with alternating current and it was enabled by the fractional horsepower electric motor and if there hadn’t been a fractional horsepower electric motor and it hadn’t been distributed electricity, there wouldn’t have been any in the twentieth century industrial age. So what did that lead to? It lead to mass production, it led to mass channels about the mass marketing and now we’re in a different century and you say, so what is the comparative to electricity and the fractional horsepower electric motor? And what are the, the rebuttable effects out of those comparables? Well, I think that artificial intelligence, that’s both machine learning and deep learning and how that progress progresses in the future. Artificial intelligence is going to be foundational to everything that goes on in the world for the rest of the century and it will become more apparent, it’ll become commoditized and it will be as fundamental as electricity and oil were in the last century, meaning that they can be delivered as a service, now embedded in all kinds of different things.

Second of all, I would say that platforms are as important in this century as mass production factories were in the last century. Remember, most of the US economy in the early part of the last century was around manufacturing. Today, the majority of successful companies that’ll be around in the middle of the 21st century will be platform based companies. So it won’t just be Microsoft or Amazon or Google, few companies, what they called Fang. Every company will have incorporated in platform architecture and so things that seem unique are just going to become obvious mainstream.

I remember when I was in college, there was something called the interstate highway act that President Eisenhower put through and sign the bill for which enabled the interstate highway system and it was intended to be able to move missiles around during the Cold War so that the Russians wouldn’t know where our missiles were. They could be moved around on trucks at nighttime over the interstate highway system. The interstate highway system became as foundational to the economy in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s as the Internet is foundational to us today. Now to think about if we’re going to redesign the internet, we would really design it the way it’s designed today. Remember, it was designed back in the early 1970’s, so the Internet today would have much greater security. It would be a much more thoughtful in terms of how it integrated into sensors. The sensors didn’t exist, obviously when the Internet was first created and there will be tens of billions of sensors connected with everything, even by 2020. So the Internet would be far more secure. It would be far more integrated into all kinds of things, it would be integrated into the platform architecture companies that would be, you know, into all kinds of devices, not just with flat screens, but images that can be seen like Holograms, a hollow lens if you notice something that Microsoft’s been working. The possibilities of what the fundamental will be for any kind of business, in the middle of this century are just in the eyes of the beholder right now.

They haven’t really been deployed yet and yet they’re going to be so obvious. When you’re my age, you’re going to sit back and be explaining to people your age, that there was a time once when there wasn’t a broad-scale artificial intelligence, when every industry was a platform company, when the sensors were connected to everything, when block-chain was built into every transaction and then people will look at you and say, really? There was a time like that? And yet this is all going to happen and it’s going to happen in exponential time meaning that it’s not going to take a 10, 20, 30 years for these things to happen. It’s got to happen over the next five years, 10 years, to an exponential time, you know, its compounding math. Keep thinking about and don’t be afraid to ask other people say, like what do you think about this? And don’t be afraid that someone’s going to say Michael, that’s a really dumb idea.

Did you plan to end up where you are, or did that “just happen”?

Well, when I was very young, I really didn’t want toys. All I wanted were electronic parts so I could build things and I discovered I was better at taking things apart and turning them into something else but when I put them back together, I always had parts left over. So I realized I was not going to be a great engineer. I didn’t have a precise, detailed mind like my wife who was an engineer. I was more of a designer, I like to figure out different ways of doing things, with the idea of there had to be a better way and I was interested in designing things ever since I was a child. So I would be building things. I built a go kart. I built early television sets, I built one of the first color television sets when they were sending out signals that was called few sequential television where you had a spinning wheel of red, green and blue and then when I was 14, I invented a color television cathode ray tube and I applied for the patent on it and eventually got knocked out by Dr. R Lawrence, who eventually Lawrence Livermore labs was named after and he invented something that knocked out about 8 of my 12 claims and he eventually sold his invention to ABC paramount. ABC and paramount studios were combined in those days and then they eventually sold it to Sony or became Sony Trinitron too so years later when I met Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, he had remembered the story that when I was a kid, I had invented something very similar to what Dr Lawrence did. So he introduced me to the team who were still at Sony, who were the original Sony Trinitron team and so I was always inspired by ideas and I was always curious. Curiosity was who I was. I was not a particularly good athlete; I was like, OK, so I was much more interested in, thinking about things in my head and building things.

I had a really bad stammering problem, I couldn’t talk. So when I was a kid I couldn’t even talk on the telephone. I couldn’t even talk in the classroom when I was at school, I stammered so badly and I was very embarrassed and the teachers would say I was stupid because I couldn’t answer the questions. So it was very humbling to put it mildly but then it turned out that I eventually went to a medical hypnotist and learned how to get over my stammering and by the time I got to college, I discovered I was actually very good in mathematics and so I was an exceptionally good student at a higher math and when I was in graduate school, I was doing a Monte Carlo Game Theory and mark off chain analysis and basic statistical modeling and things like that. Didn’t seem to have any purpose in those days but as we know today, they’re kind of fundamental algorithms. So sometimes things happen and they don’t seem quite full at the moment. Um, as things that happened s things happened to me in my childhood but so much of what I do today, Tracy spatter, I was interested in when I was very young and the things I was doing when I was very young.

You had a remarkable career thus far. I was curious what it is that it takes to build like a career like John Scully in general if there is such thing.

John Scully: It’s not very complicated. It takes an incredible curiosity, it takes a willingness to work extremely hard and it takes, I think, respect that there are other people who can do things better than you can and if you can work together, you know, and great companies are always built by teams. It’s not, it’s not one individual, but it’s always a team and so the team doesn’t have to be exactly like you.You have to say, so what am I good at? What’s missing in the company? How do I find someone who’s good at the things which I’m not as good as they are? And they will find that the most successful companies that they always have a leader who has a very clear vision of what she or he, you know, wants to accomplish and that’s why the noble cause is so powerful. The more you can conceptualize the company in terms of something that is noble for the world and the fact that it makes money is one of the outcomes is not the sole purpose. That’s what attracts the best talent because the best work from people. The brilliance of Steve Jobs was as much about his ability to articulate what he thought could be possible, not probable but possible and his ability to recruit talent. He was an amazing recruiter of talent.

You’re one of the great minds of business. You definitely got to work with one of them as well and Steve Jobs. What is it that you saw that, I mean from your relationship with him, from what you saw that it takes to build a Steve Jobs if there is such a thing for that or to build a career as such as this?

John Scully: It always starts with that there has to be a better way. You think about something and it may be something very small. When Steve did the ipod, it wasn’t the first MP3 player. There were a lot of MP3 players before the ipod, but what Steve realized was, it was when Siemens came out with this little tiny rotational disc drive that can hold a lot of content on a small miniaturized, no powered product that he came up with the idea of the ipod working with Tony Fidel, and Tony was the one who actually designed it and Steve was the one who knew how to explain it in ways that non-technical people would really appreciate it. So he didn’t say, here’s the best MP3 player you’ve ever seen, look how powerful it is, look how small it is. No! He said, how’d you like to have a thousand songs in your pocket? How would you like have a thousand songs in your pocket? And people said, wow, I never thought of that and he was very clever. He went to one of the most powerful industries in the world at that time, the Hollywood music industry and was able to convince them to stop selling songs as an album, but to sell them individually for 99 cents a song and of course that’s what the whole idea of itunes, it became the ipod and things like that. So the ability to connect dots to see things that weren’t obvious to other people was part of his brilliance. So we can all learn from that.

You spoke about the principles. What are principles? could you detail more about them specifically?

John Scully: I’ll give you Steve’s principles. Always start with the customer, not with the technology and other one is, it’s more about design and cool technology. Steve actually couldn’t draw, when he came up with an idea…I went to Rhode Island School of design and School of architecture and so I would draw his ideas often because he couldn’t draw, but he can visualize them, he was a very visual person. Steve loved to use metaphors because when something didn’t exist, he could explain it by using metaphors to explain it, well, it’s like this, and it’s like that. You believe in, no compromise and so his designs… I remember when the first Macintosh was getting ready to go to market and the first Mac was inside a sealed case because Steve didn’t want people tempering with it inside and wanted to be in complete control and one of the engineers was just finishing up the motherboard and Steve looked at it and said, I don’t like this motherboard. I don’t like the way it’s laid out. I want you to go back and do it again and the engineer said but Steve, we don’t have any time left. We’ve got to ship the product and anyway, no one’s going to see it. It’s inside a steel case, no one’s going to know, and he said, “I’ll know” and that was Steve Jobs. Now the original Apple logo that looks like a four color logo because Apple was the first color computer, it has color logo on those days and Steve insisted that it’d be printed with 6 colors, not with four colors and I remember someone saying, Steve, he realized how expensive it is to print a logo in 6 colors as opposed to four colors and nobody will know. He said, “I’ll know”.

Thank you, it was a real honor to talk with you!

Reaching Consumers Through Social Media Conversations

Marketing and social media should be best friends. They have to be for most products and services to reach a mass market of any significance at a relatively low cost.

I’m a ‘supermarketaholic’ and enjoy visiting the biggest store close-by. Walking the lanes recently was both nostalgic and different. Nostalgic because I know this experience will change in the future as it has from my childhood. Different because I was seeing the products through a different set of eyes on that day. In the past I would be looking out for the new highly advertised product ‘seen on the television or newspaper’. Now, I’m checking out the deals and new products flittering across my mobile as I check my Facebook messages. Yes its different.

Facebook advertising works so well one does not even associate it with advertising. The images we see sometimes can draw us in with very few words. If it’s good, then the comments will get a brief review. Sometimes I will comment if I really like a product or feel interested in finding out more. If I have a bad experience, its shared by writing a negative buzz /response, that’s my act of community service to people I know.

What drives consumer spending now is much more than a hyped-up, interesting product and disposable income. It goes beyond the borders of influence and up the alley of social media marketing and promotion. Its that defining comment which resonates and reminds of a feeling!

Social media marketing & promotion

From my experience, social media marketing can be described as a mixture of penetrating a marketing image with a social media conversation strategy. The product promotion takes place in the ‘comments’ of a thread. This is then shared, over and over, by consumers who can effectively describe a ‘feeling’ of value in a few words. Indeed it is the trigger from these conversations which cannot be easily monetized as advertising, for commercial gain by a hosting platform. This has helped many brands in introducing new products. In the case of ‘the platform’ like Twitter and Facebook capturing the real commercial value is difficult based on the nature of the promotional asset — online subscribers.

There are very few ads on Facebook which will generate a feeling from me, to look further, in their present format. They give me that feeling from the past, of getting up during the commercial breaks to go for popcorn or a drink!

I’m sure the ads are pretty and relevant and I may miss a deal or two, but hey they do not impact on what I’m going to buy or where I will shop in many instances. So what is wrong with the present ‘validated promotions’ (commercial FB ads), and why don’t they appeal to many consumers like me?

Storytelling in social media marketing & promotion

One of my theories on why some ads on social media do not appeal, has to do with ‘verified experience/value added’!

The comment threads can act as a storyteller! Yes. It’s like opening a book and reading a dialogue, complete with human feelings and stimuli. I’ll share a couple examples from my consumer vision;

The Pub — There is a new outdoor mall with a pub I wanted to visit every-time I passed and saw its sign. I was caught by the name and graphics on the sign. As I scrolled one day on Facebook I glimpsed a comment on the pub, shared by a friend of a friend. There was a dissatisfied heading announcing ‘poor service at $200 per meal’. I scrolled back, and read the few lines posted on the consumer experience, and then noted a few comments listed, mainly negative feedback. As I read, I thought — “I won’t be spending $200 to be insulted anytime soon, or ever!” That was instinctive. A few days later on another thread, I read an experience one of my closest friends had at the same pub, and she keeps going there. I’m not convinced I want to give it a try, having noted the time she and the dissatisfied customer visited were very different. She also appears to know the owners, and could be getting preferential treatment. Full story ending indicates, I’m not convinced to go!

Soaps — I’ve been noting a few friends keep sharing this ad about a new line of bath soaps with herbal and natural extracts. I like Dove, but as I read the comments I’m catching a scent and feel of a different experience. Something soft, mild and without a lot of additives, and it smells divine based one comments from people I don’t know. As I hunt the lanes in search of this product, I can only recall the name and the experiences driving me not to give up! Its not on the shelves, and I go to the supervisor to ask if they carry the product line. She says “no”, but asks for a description — I pulled it up on my Facebook screen for her to see (I shared it on my timeline to have easy access)! I can check back with them on my next visit, and they will try to get some in the store! Wow, I will be going there soon.

Marketing and social media can deliver an experience, which is replicated through the buyer/consumer conversations. Good or bad, everything can get validated through the stories we hear via comments. At the end of the day, marketers need to move the customer to exchanging cash for product/service. That is the objective.

Facebook sharing is big and can lead to great success and feedback insights before a brand can be severely damaged. It should be a part of most product marketing strategies. Going beyond the superficial is the new generation marketing challenge for those able to create the authentic /real stories consumers want to read and act on. A marketing savvy person/company shares user experiences effectively. Let’s get those consumers to feel our brands, through conversations!

About the Author

Donna Luisa is a a corporate business veteran, with practical experience in a diverse range of industries — Safety/ HVAC / FMCG /Industrial Equipment /and much more . Sales, Marketing, Business Development & Coaching are combined to deliver over 30 years experience.

5 Marketing Automation Strategies to Increase Profits

While the concept of automation has been around since the beginning of the industrial age, its presence in today’s economy seems to be growing at record speeds. New technologies, combined with a better understanding of how they work, have allowed business of all types to grow in ways previously thought impossible.

marketing automation strategy business charts

One of the more recent developments in automation is its application in marketing. The emergence of Big Data, and the expansion of internet and smartphone use, means marketers now have their hands on a tremendous amount of information they can use to more effectively reach their target market.

However, as with any technological advance, just using it doesn’t automatically translate into results. You have to have the right strategy.

Marketing automation is all the rage right now, and here are five strategies to make it work for you.

Lead Identification

One of the most frequent debates that goes on between sales and marketing departments is what constitutes a quality lead. Differing opinions not only slow down the process, but they also can lead a salesperson to go after a lead that doesn’t really have much promise. One of the best marketing automation strategies you can pursue is one of lead identification. It uses data to help eliminate the guesswork ,giving sales team better leads to pursue.

The first step in this strategy is to automate data collection, as this will allow you to figure out exactly who is coming to your site. But more importantly, it will give you a chance to learn who is engaging with the content you produce. You can track clicks, time on page, downloads, etc. (using tools such as Google Analytics and UI parameters) and this will help you figure out which part of your target audience is responding most to your tactics.

Another great way to identify leads using automation is through subscriptions. Work with your web developer to have a subscription box pop up after people have spent a certain amount of time on the site. Signing up demonstrate affinity, meaning sales tactics will likely be more effective won these individuals. Implement these simple automation and use them to help make your sales efforts far more effective.

Lead Nurturing

The second strategy to pursue is lead nurturing. It’s one thing to identify good leads, but you need to manage them properly to be able to turn them into sales; even the best leads don’t all convert into sales.

The secret to this strategy is drip emails. These are emails that go out gradually (as if they were dripping) to confirmed leads. And they’re really easy to automate. You start by writing out the content of the emails, and then you set your system up to send different emails at different intervals. You could manage this manually, but you’d likely go insane trying to keep track of everything. By setting it up to work automatically, you can sit back and let the emails do the work for you.

And there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest these types of campaigns work. In fact, one study found that every $1 invested in an email campaigns produces a return of $38. It’s tough to beat those kinds of results, and they’re really only attainable with an automated lead nurturing campaign.

There are a variety of different software options out there that can help you nurture leads, the most common and effective being Drip, ConvertKit, Vero and Mailchimp.

Brand Management and Engagement

Building and maintaining a brand is one of the key functions of a marketing department. And it requires a multifaceted approach across many different platforms. But it’s hard to beat the effectiveness of social media in building a brand. People use these platforms to stay in touch with those they care about, so being in on these conversations can only help your brand.

Actually doing this, though, can be a nightmare. Between all the different platforms, there’s far too much for any one person to do. The answer: automate. Platforms such as Hootsuite allow you to set up your social media posts in advance, meaning you can front load all the work and then only respond when needed. The software will alert you when someone has commented on a post or reached out to, and then you can respond directly to that comment, saving you from having to comb through all the content on your various accounts.

Furthermore, these services will help track engagement. They’ll bundle information about likes retweets, shares, etc., and this will let you know what’s working well and what’s not, allowing you to refine your campaigns and increase their effectiveness in helping you build your brand.

Customer Service

To stay competitive in today’s market, you must deliver top-notch customer service. While traditionally thought of as separate from marketing, nowadays both functions are closely connected. This bond has formed largely because of the information you can gather from your customer service efforts, and also because you can use customer service as another means of dealing with people.

The primary tool for automating customer service is a chatbot. These are a wonderful way to break the ice with people and make your site, company and brand seem more human. Offering to help people find something, or pointing them in the right direction when they land on you site, can go a long way towards helping to improve the customer experience and promote sales.

But chatbots can go one step further. Because they’re automated, they can collect and compile data that will help you understand your audience even more. They can identify frequent issues, and they can also help you learn more about what people come searching for when they land on your site. And all this means you can tailor your content to better meet the needs of your audience, increasing the chances you’ll connect with them and convert them into customers.

Tailored Content

Successful marketing campaigns speak directly to your target audience. They start by identifying the needs and expectations of a certain group, and they end by connecting with these people and convincing them to take an action, such as making a purchase or signing up for your newsletter. And the secret to doing this is to segment your audiences and deliver content that is directly relevant to them.

tailored content marketing automation strategy

For example, let’s say you’re a B2B business offering employment services or management consulting. Your goal as a company is to help people streamline their HR operations. As such, your audience is going to be people working in HR, as well as divisional managers responsible for making decisions about the business, as these are the people who will ultimately decide whether or not to hire you. And although these two groups are part of the same audience, the content you send to them must be different for it to be effective.

The secret to this is using an automated CRM software. It will help compile information about your many different audience segments, allowing you to create a distribute content tailored specifically for each group. For example, HR generalists may receive information about how to streamline the on-boarding process, whereas HR managers will receive content about how a (PEO) can save the company time, money and resources. It makes sense this kind of segmentation would work, and studies help back up this logic, indicating a 62 percent improvement in email campaign effectiveness with this type of tailored content.

Use Automation the Right Way

Automating marketing tasks presents an incredible opportunity to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing operation. However, for it to work, you need to have a good strategy. The five discussed here are some of the most effective known to date, so give them a try and watch as your marketing efforts produce better leads and drive higher sales figures now and into the future.

 

About the Author 

Jock works with investors and business owners to help people maximize the value of their business. Professionally, he is an expert in high-growth internet companies, having bought, built and sold three different businesses throughout his career. He is currently the CEO of Digitalexits.com.

Customer Service: Its Importance and Value

Customer service is often overlooked by many companies because it’s hard to measure the direct value of providing great customer experience.

In today’s highly competitive market, businesses have to make tough calls on what to focus on next to survive, and unfortunately, providing customer satisfaction is usually on the lower end of the list.

Without being able to properly quantify the direct value of great service, many businesses can’t justify spending time and resources on providing it. Other businesses just see customer service more as a pain, and choose to be reactive, rather than proactive to customer expectations. However, the truth is, great customer service is absolutely crucial to the long-term survival of the business.

customer-service-happy

The Importance of Customer Service

You can argue that price is the main reason your customers choose you, so you focus your energy and resources on being the most affordable. I’m telling you, there will come a day when a competitor comes in with a better product for a cheaper price.

In the the same way, you can also argue that you focus on innovative developments and that’s why your customers buy from you. Again, there will come a day a competitor swoops in and take your customers from you because they made better innovative progress. Do you know what you can invest in that your competitors can’t take away from you? Loyalty. Good old customer loyalty.

The best way to gain customers’ loyalty? You charm them with your service.

By continuously engaging with them through customer service and marketing efforts, you are fostering a relationship with them. It’s hard for people to walk away from someone or something they have formed an attachment to.

A study conducted by Forrester Research found that strong emotional connections with a brand is a stronger driver than other factors like ‘ease’ and ‘effectiveness’ across 17 different industries.

So now you know why it’s important, what’s the value of providing great customer experience and service to create highly engaged customers?

The Value of Customer Service

1. Retaining customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones

It’s true. Acquiring a new customer can be anywhere from 5-25 times more expensive than keeping a current one. You don’t have to spend so much time and resources finding a new customer and converting them. Instead, you just have to make sure they’re satisfied and will repurchase from you.

Customer support contributes a large portion to the retention and satisfaction of customers. Many companies put a lot of time and resources in their sales and marketing teams, when just as much emphasis should be put in support or success teams. When done right, they can have a bigger impact on your bottomline than new acquisition activities.

2. Repeat customers generally spend more than new ones

A study by McKinsey found that eCommerce spending for new customers on average is $24.50, compared to $54.50 for repeat customers. Even better, highly-engaged customers buy 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction.Making a customer happy shouldn’t be a one time thing at the beginning of the relationship. Most relationships are more valuable the longer they are. Businesses should be putting more emphasis on their customer service, success and support teams because the financial growth potential is much larger than in newly acquired customers. Plus, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, whereas the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20%.

2. Great service reduces the severity of overall problems.

We’ve all had problems with companies before. In the moment, you might be upset, angry, annoyed or all of the above. If you had to talk to a rude customer service rep on top of all that…I’d imagine you wouldn’t be too happy. What originally may have been a small problem would go from 0 – 100.

In the same way bad service can escalate problems, good customer service can reduce them. When delivered well, customer service can diffuse negative emotions from the customer and the situation. Excellent customer service can turn the situation around into a positive. Small things like apologizing, empathizing and being genuine can go a long way to reduce a customer’s negative emotions and the severity of the overall problem.

82% of satisfied customers will “likely” or “very likely” keep shopping with a company and give it another chance if something goes wrong.

3. Builds brand awareness with minimal effort.

Customers are being more and more vocal about how a company treats them and how a company makes them feel. Considering your customer service team are likely to be the only people in contact with a customer, they play a crucial role in shaping their customer experience, and by extension, whether they have good or bad things to say about the company.

It is therefore important that every interaction with a customer should make them feel valued, listened to and supported. Extra points for going beyond expectations like Paul from Zappos. It was a simple response to a customer whose shoes were falling apart, but he made it so much more. This ended up being shared on Reddit, Hubspot and Helpscout and championed as customer service at its best.

Zappos Customer Service

Source: Reddit

4. People remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.

Think back to a purchase you made a couple of years back. Heck, think back a couple of months even. I can’t even remember the price of something I bought in the last few months!

What I do remember though, is the service, the delivery and the effort I had to put in to make the purchase. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And in this case, the price you paid is the destination, and all that leading up to the purchase, is the journey. People will talk. If they liked the journey, they will recommend it to others.

5. It’s a competitive advantage no one can take away

With rapid innovation reducing differentiation between one product and another, and competitors just a click away, customer service is one of the last frontiers of sustainable competitive advantage for businesses.

Many businesses will pay lip service to the value of customer service, all the while cutting costs and resources to provide it. This will only ensure they provide the bare minimum to support customers, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near good enough to be a advantage. When normal customer service standard means going above and beyond for a customer, that is when customers will choose your business over someone else’s.

Customer Service Takeaway: Customer service is becoming more important than ever as competitors increase and are closer than ever. A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related than price or product related. No one wants to do business with someone they don’t like. The product or service doesn’t matter anymore. They can easily substitute with other products or services that function similarly. Customers would rather deal with the slight inconvenience that the competitor’s product or service doesn’t function the same way, than to deal with the huge inconvenience of not being supported by your business.

Customer service, when delivered to the satisfaction of customers, not only creates a powerful marketing opportunity for the business, but also helps with the bottomline. Not only are return customers easier to sell to, they will spend more per transaction and would pay extra to guarantee better service.

customer service charter template download cta woveon

Using Smart Technology for Smarter Customer Service

Smart technology is rapidly changing the world we live in today. From smart houses to high-tech artificially intelligent robots, the world we live in is being saturated with advanced technology that simplifies our lives today. One industry that is fully embracing artificial intelligence is customer service. Companies across many different industries are jumping on board and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create chatbots, remember customer problems, and create suggested responses. These are just some of the few incredible capabilities that AI and ML and other smart technologies are bringing to the field of customer service.

How Artificial Intelligence is Leading the Smart Technology Revolution

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Smart technology is transforming the customer experience, but there’s also a more self-serving business benefit from its use. Those teams enabled and empowered through the likes of AI and predictive intelligence have higher rates of employee engagement. This is because agents feel more empowered and experience first-hand the positive impact this personalized style of service is having on the customer. There are two main ways that businesses are augmenting their customer care units with AI: “front-end AI-powered bots” and “AI-assisted human agents.” A front-end AI-powered bot is a conversational computer program that interacts directly with a customer without human intervention. On the other hand, an AI-assisted human agent is a human customer service representative who is supported by AI technology. Both these models are being used in service departments across industries.

Chatbots

Of all the fields in the chatbot-crazed world, customer service is one of the prime targets for automation. Virtual customer agents (customer service-focused bots, or VCAs) are intelligent systems able to understand what users ask via chat and provide them adequate answers.

In 2015, the number of people using messaging apps overtook the number using social media. Beyond communicating with friends and work colleagues, individuals are increasingly using messaging apps to interact with brands. Messaging services are a brand new space for organizations to connect with existing and future customers. Businesses now have the opportunity to create new revenue streams using real-time, customized customer service bots within messaging applications. More than 34,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone are a reflection of this opportunity. The airline, clothing and tourism industries are already leveraging this space. Consumers are connecting with brands through messaging apps to purchase airline tickets, book hotel accommodations and receive fashion advice. It’s only a matter of time before the other industries catch up.

The WeChat Messenger bot deployed by China Merchant Bank, one of the largest credit card issuers in China, is another example of a front-end bot. According to the AI technology provider Xiaoi, the China Merchant Bank’s front-end bot handles 1.5 to 2 million customer conversations per day, an inquiry volume that would typically require thousands of additional employees to answer. As most questions relate to card balances and payments, automation via a bot interface presents a relatively easy and cost efficient solution.

These above examples of chatbots already in use give a great introduction of the possibilities that AI brings to the field of customer service. AI makes it possible to create these large indexes so that the bot can respond back with pre-understood phrases or suggest responses to the human controlling it.

Suggested Responses

AI and ML are frequently misunderstood in the business world. They are not taking over jobs, but further enhancing current human positions. With suggested responses, companies can get through all of the requests at a much faster pace. AI bots can be used to read through customer requests and find the problem they are having. If you have repeat customers, customer conversation history is extremely important tool for your AI and ML. It can learn from past experiences and more accurately detect the problem the customer is having.

Conversation History

Woveon, a startup that provides intelligent customer service, uses AI programs to enhance its customer conversation history. Conversation history is simply saving past conversations between the customer and the business. Customer service representatives can then go back and use this data to help future questions the customer may have. Woveon is using this to essentially make a 3D diagram to further help the representative. The program will be able to go into the conversation history and track down the problems. It will then make a web with the biggest points being recurring problems. Branching off of the bigger problems will be other related problems that customers often have. This program, though still in development, will change the way customer service is able to work with customers. Woveon’s software, as mentioned above, is an AI-Assisted Human Agent and proves the importance of human interaction as it simplifies and speeds up these interactions.

Smart Tech Integration to the Business World

“As humans, we advance, that’s what we do. And the rise of AI in the customer service field is just another step in our advancement and should be looked at as such. There might be some growing pains during the process, but we shouldn’t let that stop us from growing and extending our knowledge. When we look at the benefits these chatbots, suggested responses, and conversation history can provide to the consumer and the business, it becomes clear that we are moving in the right direction.”

customer service charter template download cta woveon

Dream A Little Bigger – Why Multi-Channel is Dead

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to help Professor Jerry Wind write his latest book, ‘Beyond Advertising.’ The research touches over a few concepts, including the need for businesses to create marketing campaigns and brand alignments resulting in benefits not just for themselves, but for their consumers and beyond. Backed with a worksheet-style framework and a slew of case studies, Professor Wind suggests that consistent messaging, distributed and orchestrated over a wide variety of channels, would lead to a consistent and altogether more effective customer journey.

Professor Wind was correct in his conclusion. In a generation where people have shorter attention span than goldfish, are forgetful and chained to their phones, and consistently lost and addicted to immediate gratification, it’s not enough to focus on how small interactions affect customer behavior. To move from these reactive, ineffective attempts at understanding people, marketers and customer service agents need to move away from analyzing points, tickets, and individual channels. The first step is cutting out this idea of marketing and customer service as multi-channel.

Multichannel Marketing and Customer Service is Dead

Bailing a Sinking Ship With a Solo Cup

To break into this concept of moving past multi-channel, it’s worth looking at a concrete example as to how and why multi-channel strategy doesn’t work in the first place. There are any number of case studies which address the topic. My personal favorite might be an onboarding study in the telecom business. A large telecom company tracked interactions that customers, such as an initial price consultation. In every given stage, customers were asked to rate their experience. Over all the polls, their experiences were positive. Viewed holistically, however, customers had a negative opinion of the process and the brand itself. Executives had to take a step back and think about not just the reaction of such calls, but the reasons behind them. By spending the time to examine the reasons why there were so many interactions, as well as bringing in customers to help them design a better process, they were able to engineer a far more effective onboarding process.

The brand needed to understand customers and their emotions rather than resolving sets of tickets. To compare this to the view of multi-channel considered originally, although consistency of quality was carried out over the different channels, the experience itself was not necessarily well-received.

A contrasting point is the success of healthcare IT company Flatiron Health. A large portion of their success is based in breaking down silos between patient touch points. By relating data between things such as EMRs and clinical research, as well as back and forth with patients, Flatiron is able to find successful trends in clinical and patient care. Additionally, by putting their product managers in hospitals to shadow nurses and doctors, Flatiron was able to listen more effectively to not just their clinic customers, but also to the patients their system is used for. By putting a focus on informing patients – not just doctors – both parties have an improved experience. Patients understood their therapy better and had easier ways to alert their doctor of changes while doctors had better information to inform future decisions. Flatiron’s astronomical growth rate and funding rounds speak for themselves in terms in contrast to the success and usability of traditional EMR systems. By focusing on net experience, rather than traditional touchpoint management, Flatiron was able to deliver better product and growth.

To formalize this into concrete business concepts, Chris Meyer proposes a possible explanation in Harvard Business Review about the customer experience

Multi-channel marketing and customer service is built on CRM management – tracking events, instances, and facts without focusing on the experiences and problems underneath. While there is a wide breadth of this information, it is still distinct from the concepts of motivation, experience and feeling. To really switch, businesses require a fundamentally different view towards how they try and get brands to align with people – or more simply, just seeing people as people.

While multi-channel itself an ineffective management strategy, it is worth mentioning how this thinking is ineffective for corporate sustainability as well. With customers using a wider number of channels – and methods of using those channels changing as well – thinking about channels as rigid entities sets a business up to be permanently behind the rate of change. In one Entrepreneur article, the writer posited that the rate of capturing the value of new platforms wasn’t as much of a problem anymore as the rate at which companies can adopt to them. Focusing on multi-channel will leave managers on an adoption rate treadmill, exacerbating the lack of visibility they have on their customers.

An Experience is Worth More Than 1000 Words

Nearly as soon as Professor Wind’s book came out, parts of its research were already bending to the breakneck speed at which digital marketing is changing. As IBM observed in their most recent CMO survey , the traditional silos – both in terms of industry and channel – are breaking down. CMOs are no longer the masters of ‘the campaign’ or creative geniuses, they are engineers of customer experience. Concisely, in the same survey, Mohamed AlTajer writes “There won’t be CMOs in the future; there will be Chief Experience Officers who are responsible for the overall customer journey.”

Relating to Professor Wind’s book, his work sets the stage for what will be a needed change in outlook and approach. People fundamentally expect the same experience over any channel we interact with. In other words, people don’t just want consistency when dealing with companies, they want an ongoing conversation. Too long has marketing and customer service focused on what is corporately efficient without realizing that by accommodating and listening customers, both succeed.

This is a relatively abstract concept that is illustrated well by clothing company Patagonia. Patagonia is built upon a number of principles including use of recycled materials, a permanent one percent of revenue commitment to grassroots activism, and a culture based off the mountain climbing past of it’s founder, Yvon Chouinard. They branded around the catchphrase “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” urging customers to consider the environmental implications of the clothes they were buying and to encourage them to buy use. In an act in line with their guiding principles, considerate to their customers, and seemingly flying in the face of a proper sales campaign, Patagonia’s sales actually exploded. () By sticking to their philosophy and informing their customers, Patagonia has maintained it’s shopper experience as an outdoors brand and continued to be a model brand of customer and corporate goals aligning.

Bottom of the Ninth

In an age where social media and customer management is an increasingly crowded landscape, what do businesses needs to change to actually understand their customers?

In part, the change in cultural. Think about the idea of the traditional sales team. The concept, although certainly profitable, is not always the most healthy extension of company culture. This introduces a risk of divide between the culture of the sales team and the rest of the team. In an ideal corporate structure, everyone in a company believes in their brand alignment and, through their work, help contributes to its success. To cite Michael Keller, CEO of Pearson’s Candy, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

To illustrate this, consider REI, the outdoor clothing and supply behemoth. REI seeks out employees passion about their products – in other words, ‘outdoorsy people’ – and the same people that would buy the products themselves. REI employees also lead sessions teaching things such as kayaking, get discounts on their products, and even days off to go outside and play. This unapologetic commitment to culture has led to a massive boon in sales, especially in comparison to some of their less-focused competitors. Rather than focus on channel-specific campaigns and tracking, by curating a culture, REI was able to drive sales effectively.

To tie this concept more directly to the sales and marketing front, Atlassian stands out. As one of the few Australian unicorn companies, their lack of sales team has generated a lot of buzz. While potentially alarming at first, it is relatively easy to see this success is attributed to founders devoted to the need for their own product, building a culture where people want to work, and making all aspects of the company, to some extent, marketing. By creating a product that they loved themselves and employees that wanted to work there, the marketing came from largely word of mouth. Combined with distributing their software for free, Atlassian blossomed into a massive company. Co-founder Scott Farquhar notes, “I passionately believe about giving experience. Mainly to employees but also to customers… People remember experiences that you give them.In other words, your own employees should be your brand’s biggest advocate, and their actions will help a product sell itself. In the same vein, Palantir, backed with a 0 dollar marketing budget, relies nearly entirely on the passion of its employees to drive and perfect it’s product. As one of the most valuable privately held companies in the valley, it’s safe to say the tactic is working.

A Product Is Worth a Thousand Words

Aside the more intangible changes of culture, the answer isn’t to stop tracking points – in fact, tracking is as relevant as ever – but to approach how we integrate conversations into marketing, sales, and, most importantly, product differently. As companies break down their multi-channel induced silos, they need to integrate customer interactions with how they build their product.

I think summary of all of this can come from a talk I went to with Eone Watch’s founder, Hyungsoo Kim. In his attempt to make a watch for the blind, he quickly realized that his perceptions of building and selling the product were completely wrong. He had made a series of assumptions about the blind, including that they could read braille and wouldn’t care as much about the appearance of the watch. In testing, soon realized how painfully wrong he was, with around 10% of his test users knowing braille and appearance being one of the most asked questions. Bringing the product back to the drawing board, the watch was re-designed to be appealing and usable to blind and sighted alike, an intuition that only came from having blind people work closely with the product team.

While companies talk to a variety of customers, usually not as specific of a market segment as the one targeted by Hyungsoo, it is easy to make a number of simplifications and projections based off what we as businesses feel like we should be focusing on and what people will want. Multi-channel, as Professor Wind examined and built on, is necessarily reactive. It precludes companies from seeing the underlying motivations behind customers and precludes them from building their best products. If we follow stories, rather than words and points, it’ll be much easier to predict the next chapter. So let’s stop thinking of marketing and customer service as pages, but rather books about people.