8 Tips to Recruit the Right Talent for Your Marketing Team

Running a successful marketing team is all about getting the most out of your products, services and people. One of the best ways to ensure your business is functioning optimally is to recruit the right talent. It takes effort, but there are tips you can follow to ensure you have the best team in place.

Running a successful business (or marketing team) is all about getting the most out of your products, services and people. One of the best ways to ensure your business is functioning optimally is to recruit the right talent.

A reliable and strong workforce is key to the triumph of any business. Your business needs employees who are loyal and hardworking. However, it takes effort to recruit the right talent for your business.

Searching for the new team member that will be a spark plug for your business may seem as if you are searching for a needle in a haystack. However, there are ways to identify who will be the right fit for your team.

Here are some key ways to enhance how one filters, finds and recruits the right talent to an organization:

1. Clearly Define Your Company’s Vision, Mission and Values

Establishing a succinct company mission, vision and core values are key in creating a culture unique to your business. When it comes to selecting new team members, your company’s culture should triumph everything else. Culture and core values are key to survival in any business environment, especially those where employees are expected to wear many hats.

A potential talented employee possesses all the experience on paper, but if they do not fit your company’s culture and key values, then they’re not an ideal addition. Be true to yourself and listen to your instincts.

Take time to communicate all the “whys” behind your company and the values your business endorses to filter out the off-beam applicants. Understand that not everyone is a good fit for every business culture, and that is okay

2. Recruit the Right Talent with an Impeccable Job Post

Communication is vital to recruit the right talent. It is your responsibility to communicate a clear message regarding the type of individual you are looking to recruit. If you are too vague in your job posting, you will have applicants coming from every single direction.

Describe the open position as sharply and accurately as possible. Falsifying the description of a job so that it sounds more striking than it is will backfire. Highlighting the positives is key, but do not lose your grip on the reality of what the position entails. In general, your job post should narrate to a potential employee what they ought to expect from the job, both in long-term and short-term. Enlighten applicants on what they’ll accomplish, what skills they’ll need and what skills they’ll develop.

Use keywords that recruit the right talent in your search. Companies like Acumax Index assist you in developing a position profile to ensure you are interviewing the right type of candidate.

3. Use the Interview to Preview a Potential Employee

A job interview helps you learn a lot, but not all, about your potential employee. Use the potential employee’s interview on top of an resume to find out more regarding the candidate’s objectives and aspirations.

When examining past occupations, search for applicants without a history of jumping jobs. Ask them to explain to you where they see themselves in the next 5 to 10 years. Both help you determine whether this applicant is expected to stick with your company or just use the position as a placeholder.

During the interview, ask open-ended questions that can get the potential employee showcase their character. Find out the things that motivate them to help them set goals and challenge themselves.

Acumax Index will also provide you with interview questions based on the position profile you created. This helps you keep an eye out for answers and keywords indicating they will be a great fit or a poor one.

4. Keep Close Tabs on Your Competition

Recruiting the right talent for your  business is just half the battle. Making sure they stay is the other. Implement these tips and tricks to ensure longevity in the investment in your people.

In today’s competitive climate, it is important to familiarize yourself with jobs currently on market and what your competitors are offering. Ask yourself honest questions about your company. What differentiates you from your competitors?  Why should someone want to work for you? The benefits of your organization do not always need to be monetary. Offer your potential hires training and learning development programs alongside opportunities to grow within the business.

5. Choose the Best Recruitment Agency for Your Business Model

Some employers are put off by utilizing recruitment agencies, but this is a great way to find proficient applicants. The key when soliciting a recruiter is to make sure they understand your needs and the culture of your company before they opt to advertise your vacancies via their networks.

It is the recruitment agency’s job to explore the marketplace for the best-qualified applicants. Some recruiters will even go a step further and headhunt individuals from other different businesses. When utilizing recruitment agencies, it is essential that you find one that specializes in your field. To make sure you only recruit the best talent, you need an agency with an “inside out” understanding of your industry.

6. Desperation Does Not Recruit the Right Talent

Desperation only makes you compromise your desires and leads you to employ the wrong talents. Do not fool yourself into thinking that any warm body is better compared to no body. This concept could end up being your most expensive mistake. Be patient and wait until the ideal talent is available to take up the task. An interview can only take you so far, and sometimes the wrong talent will make it into your company. If this is the case, don’t hold on to employees that don’t match your company culture.

7. Above All, Trust Your Instincts

As an entrepreneur, you must go along with what feels right to you. Intuition is a powerful tool, and your gut feelings rarely steer you wrong. The ideal individual will feel right to you, marking all the boxes for skills, personality, qualifications and experience. If you have doubts about a candidate’s ability to fill a desired role, do not employ them.

Once you’ve recruited the right talent, piece the hires together to create a working, functioning team. This will be what drives your company forward.

8. Only Retain Star Talent

Once your team is in place, be certain to make sure each employee is a top performer. Often, companies spend too much time getting lost in performance improvement plans. Trust management to lead their teams and evaluate their employees. Management should set clear goals of where they see their team six months in the future. They should then look at their team and question who will help carry them there and who will lag. If a person does not fit, it is important to decide whether this person is an asset or a liability.

 

 

Creating a Culture of Wow Customer Experiences

I have urged many companies to differentiate on the basis of wow customer experiences, because the bar is so low. It’s also easier for a small and mid-size company than a large company to perform outstanding CX, because you can instill customer-centric values from the top down, as well as hire and promote based on the customer experience they are providing to both internal and external customers.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend two user conferences in two weeks. Both of the companies hosting the conferences are fast-growing high tech companies. One is a hybrid multi-cloud management platform and the other provides an artifacts management platform for DevOps teams.

The segments of IT in which both of these organizations compete are rife with competition, yet both companies are growing quickly and are delivering consistently outstanding customer experiences. One has an NPS score of 92; the highest I had ever heard of was 83 from USAA. The other has 97% customer retention and 245% upsell to current customers.

Both of these organizations understand the importance of listening to customers and helping them find value in their technology investments. In talking with customers and employees alike, it’s obvious these companies are differentiating themselves by providing wow customer experiences.

I have urged many companies to differentiate on the basis of wow customer experiences, because the bar is so low. It’s also easier for a small and mid-size company than a large company to perform outstanding CX, because you can instill customer-centric values from the top down, as well as hire and promote based on the customer experience they are providing to both internal and external customers.

Where do you start? With employees. While it’s important to meet monthly, quarterly and annual sales goals, you can make the argument that providing a great customer experience is more important; especially if you’re selling a product or service from which the consumer can select another provider at any time.

A great CX starts with your employees. Are they more concerned with making sure the client is happy with the experience they are having with your product or service or making their sales goals? If your customers are happy, you’re going to make your sales goals – maybe not this month or quarter, but over the long-term.

Happy customers generate more revenue and help you attract other customers. They serve as references, provide case studies, testimonials and referrals; thereby reducing, or amplifying, your marketing investment.

Engaged, empowered employees help provide a great CX. Do your employees know that’s what you expect of them?

Deliver an Outstanding CX When Customers Aren’t Talking to You

Customers like self-service. This makes sense when you already have a relationship with a company and you’re just trying to execute a transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible. I do this with American Airlines, interacting with a kiosk to check in rather than an agent.

I just saw the headline, “Consumers Like Self-service More Than Associate Interaction, Reveals Survey.” The gist of the research is if consumers have a choice they’re more likely to tap self-service technology vs. interacting with a retail sales associate, according to a SOTI survey.

This makes sense when you already have a relationship with a company and you’re just trying to execute a transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible. I do this with American Airlines, interacting with a kiosk to check in rather than an agent. I use the self-check-out at Harris Teeter (a grocery store). And I use an app on my phone or an ATM more frequently than a teller at my bank. I also have more than a 20-year relationship with each of these brands.

If they don’t know me after 20 years, they aren’t listening. And, after 20 years, if I’m not pleased with an experience, I’ll let them know about it.

If I didn’t already have a relationship with the airline, the bank or the grocery store, I don’t think I’d trust their other distribution channels. I certainly wouldn’t be familiar with them, they’d be less convenient to use, and I likely would not use them — it would no longer be the most efficient way for me to do what I need to get done.

  • What are you doing to engage your customers and provide an outstanding customer experience?
  • Are you providing a product or service that addresses a problem or concern of your customer?
  • Do you make it easy for your customer to buy?

Do you, or your customer-facing employees, try to engage your customer in a conversation along these lines:

  • What’s driving you to buy our product?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Have you used our product before?
  • How’s our service?
  • What can we do to improve our product or service?

A lot has been written recently about how customers don’t want to have a relationship with a brand. However, a brand is not a person.

I believe customers do want to have a relationship with a representative of the brand. Someone with whom they can share a comment or suggestion and know that it will be heard and acted upon.

Typically, the people interacting with your customers are your employees.

Do you encourage your employees to engage customers in a conversation to learn more about their needs and wants? What they’re happy with and what can be improved?

Your customers probably don’t want to talk to you because you’ve shown no interest in talking to them. They may have no emotional connection to your brand and don’t care whether you succeed or not.

I have an 11-year relationship with Chipotle and fill out an online feedback form after every visit because I do have an emotional connection with the brand and I want to see it delivering an outstanding customer experience.

You may send a customer satisfaction survey or mine sales data, but have you, or your employees, had a conversation with the customer?

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. People also don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them. This is done person-to-person, not by analyzing data. This is how you build an emotional connection between a customer and a brand.

This is a function of having empathy and being sincerely concerned about why the customer is buying your product vs. that of your competitors — B2B or B2C.

Customers want relationships with brands and product and service providers on their terms. They want to be able to talk with a real person with some knowledge and authority if they have a question, suggestion or complaint.

The customer wants what they want when they want it, and it’s up to the service provider to figure out what it is.

Empower employees to find out what your customers and prospects want to know and how they want to find out about it.

By finding out how different customers want to learn about your products and services, you’ll be able to differentiate and segment your customers; thereby, providing them with more relevant information of value.

You must provide your customers the options they want in order to keep them satisfied. If you don’t, they will find someone else who will. In order to understand your customers’ needs and wants, you need to have a relationship with them, so you’ll be able to fulfill their needs on an ongoing basis.

If customers don’t want to talk to you, it may be because they don’t have a need right now, or they’re pressed for time. However, they are not saying they never want to talk to you or give you feedback.

Don’t stop trying to have a relationship with your customers. Don’t stop trying to gather real customer insights. Be there for your customers when they’re ready to talk.  If you’re not, they’ll go to someone who is.

What We Know About the FBI’s Alleged Use of Best Buy Employees as Informants

The relationship between the FBI and Best Buy’s Geek Squad was placed under the microscope in court last week.

[Editor’s note from Target Marketing: The second a brand harms its reputation, it’s putting the core of its marketing at risk. Here, we take a look at privacy and retailing — specifically, the impact invading privacy has on brand reputation.]

The relationship between the FBI and Best Buy’s Geek Squad was placed under the microscope in court last week.

Here’s a little background information on the case before we dive into this thing:

It all boils down to evidence being used in a child-pornography-possession case in Orange County, Calif. Mark A. Rettenmaier, a prominent local physician and surgeon, was having trouble with his HP Pavilion desktop computer and sought the assistance of his local Best Buy Geek Squad team. The computer ended up making its way to a Brooks, Ky., Geek Squad field location, where employees  uncovered the material in question and handed it over to the FBI — something that, according to Best Buy policy, they’re required to do. However, what the public has learned in the months since the case was brought to trial is that these Best Buy employees have routinely searched computers that have come across their stations for files that could earn them “$500 windfalls as FBI informants.”

Further complicating matters in the case, the child pornography files were found in an area of the computer where unallocated “trash” was stored, meaning “it could only be retrieved by ‘carving’ with costly, highly sophisticated forensics tools. In other words, it’s arguable a computer’s owner wouldn’t know of its existence.”

There are other issues surrounding the case: including shoddy investigative tactics, missing warrants and more. But we’ll look past all of that for the purposes of this story.

What’s most troubling in all of this is that Best Buy is (or at least several employees at this particular office are) working as an extension of the government. And, if these employees are getting paid for the information they come across, the searches could prove to be direct violations of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In a statement, Best Buy denied the accusations, saying it has no relationship with the FBI.

“From time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography, and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement. We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair,” the company said. “Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behavior. … Our policies prohibit agents from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer’s problem so that we can maintain their privacy and keep up with the volume of repairs.”

To be clear, I don’t find anything wrong with the details around this case. If a Best Buy employee were to “accidentally” come across illegal materials on a user’s computer, I’d hope and pray that they do the right thing and hand it over to authorities. That’s not what I’m arguing here.

What I am arguing is that these employees shouldn’t be actively seeking this material knowing that they have the opportunity to make a few extra bucks off of the federal government. That essentially turns them into a branch of the FBI or CIA or NSA or whomever they happen to be informing.

Privacy is the one topic that will continue to rear its ugly head as tech companies ask consumers to connect to more and more devices. Though we’re allowing companies greater access to our information and habits, there still needs to be a certain reasonable expectation of privacy. Customer support centers like Geek Squad should understand that and operate in such a way that consumers don’t have to fear that their privacy is being violated. When I send something away for repair, I’d like to think that the person whose hands the device ends up in won’t go rummaging through every folder or area of the device just because they can, no matter what some waiver I sign has to say. That’s not why I’m paying them.

And even if this were just a handful of employees at one offshoot Geek Squad facility, all of this begs the question: How many more Best Buy employees in locations around the country have been contacted by the FBI and offered similar incentives? There are some 20,000 Geek Squad employees alone. It’s a scary thought and one that could seriously hurt Best Buy’s credibility, depending on how this case plays out.

Take Heart: Send a Brand Valentine!

‘Tis the season for valentines. What makes me smile in my professional life is finding companies that foster an intentional and caring attitude towards their employees all year long. Of course, I am taking for granted that these brands already show an intentional love for their customers all year long. That’s certainly how they have become “Lovemarks” (to borrow Keven Roberts’ term for beloved brands) in their industries: building trust, continually wooing and wowing new and existing customers and exceeding expectations.

‘Tis the season for valentines. Those who know me well know that I am partial to all things heart-shaped … especially when found spontaneously in nature. I am drawn to heart-shaped rocks while hiking, heart-shaped shells on the beach, clouds in creative heart forms and fruits and vegetables that have grown unexpectedly in heart-shaped ways. Yes, these hearts make me smile in my personal life. But what makes me smile even more in my professional life is finding companies that foster an intentional and caring attitude towards their employees all year long.

Of course, I am taking for granted that these brands already show an intentional love for their customers all year long. That’s certainly how they have become “Lovemarks” (to borrow Kevin Roberts’ term for beloved brands) in their industries: building trust, continually wooing and wowing new and existing customers and exceeding expectations.

But I want to focus on a brand-building ethos that often can get neglected as companies pour all their attention in outward facing ways: internal brand love. A brand valentine of sorts! Brand leaders need to be sure that first and foremost their employees feel empowered, respected and celebrated.

Without an ethos that highly values employees’ contributions, there is no foundation for valuing customers or stakeholders. Even the best external brand-building activities will be soulless. You know it when you experience lukewarm (at best) service from a brand ambassador at a retail establishment or at a restaurant or on a plane. There is no real human connection … it is simply a transaction. Conversely, the experience that occurs when brand ambassadors feel highly motivated and engaged with their work comes across as genuine, true and helpful.

Several years ago, Kip Tindell, CEO and cofounder of the Container Store, started National We Love Our Employees Day—a celebration (coinciding with Valentine’s Day) to show appreciation for all that its employees do for the company, their colleagues, customers, vendors and communities. This is not a publicity-driven effort. It stems from Tindell’s deep-seated belief that employees are the heart of its business and how employees are treated are how customers will be treated. (Read Tindell’s inspiring book, “Uncontainable,” for a deep dive into this stellar brand.)

And, just last year, Tindell continued to celebrate this ethos by creating The Container Store’s Employee First Fund. Here’s how it is described on the website:

The Fund provides grants to employees experiencing unforeseen emergencies like a major medical situation, a catastrophic event, or other grave challenges that they are not financially prepared to deal with. This fund will support our company’s commitment to an employee-first culture, ensuring all employees are well taken care of, safe, secure and warm. It’s a culture that is driven by our seven Foundation Principles® and results in an environment where the lives of everyone connected to our business are enriched and brimming with opportunity—where everyone can thrive—starting with our employees FIRST!

So, take heart! In this season of love, why not take some inspiration from Tindell and find a creative way show (and tell!) your employees just how much they matter to your brand!

What Customer-Centric, Customer-Obsessed Companies Must Do

In building relationships with and value for customers, my longtime observation is most organizations tend to progress through several stages of performance: customer awareness, customer sensitivity, customer focus and customer obsession. Here is the “executive summary” version of some conditions of each stage.

In building relationships with and value for customers, my longtime observation is most organizations tend to progress through several stages of performance: customer awareness, customer sensitivity, customer focus and customer obsession.

Here is the “executive summary” version of some conditions of each stage.

Customer Awareness
Customers are known, but in the aggregate. The organization believes it can select its customers and understand their needs. Measurement of performance is rudimentary, if it exists at all; and customer data are siloed. There’s a traditional, hierarchical, top-down management model, with “chimneyed” or “smokestack” communication (goes up or down, but not horizontal) with little evidence of teaming.

Customer Sensitivity
Customers are known, but still mostly in the aggregate. Customer service is somewhat more evident (though still viewed as a cost center), with a focus on complaint and problem resolution (but not proactive complaint generation; internal groups tend to point fingers and blame each other for negative customer issues). Measurement is mostly around customer attitudes and functional transactions, i.e. satisfaction, with little awareness of emotional relationship drivers. The organization has a principally traditional, hierarchical, top-down management model, with “chimneyed” or “smokestack” communication (goes up or down, but not horizontal), with some evidence of teaming (mostly in areas of complaint resolution).

Customer Focus
Customers are both known and valued, down to the individual level, and they are recognized as having different needs, both functional and emotional. The customer life cycle is front-and-center; and performance measurement is much more about emotion and value drivers than satisfaction. Service and value provision is regarded as an enterprise priority; and customer stabilization and recovery are goals when problems or complaints arise. Communication and collaboration with customers, between employees, and between employees and customers is featured. Management model and style is considerably more horizontal, with greater emphasis on teaming to improve customer value processes.

It’s notable that, at this more evolved and advanced stage of enterprise customer-centricity, complaints are thought of more in terms of a life cycle component, and recovery is more of a strategy than a resolution.

Customer Obsession
Throughout the organization, customer needs and expectations—especially those that are emotional—are well understood, and response is appropriate (and often proactive).

Everyone is involved in providing value to customers—from C-suite to front-line—and everyone understands his/her role. Customer behavior is recognized as essential to enterprise success, and optimal relationships are sought.

Performance measurement is focused, and shared, on what most monetizes customer behavior (loyalty, emotion and communication metrics—such as brand-bonding and advocacy—replace satisfaction and recommendation).

Customer service (along with pipelines and processes) is an enterprise priority, and seen as a vital, and profitable, element of value delivery.

The management model is far more horizontal, replacing traditional hierarchy; and there is an emphasis on teaming and inclusion of customers to create or enhance value.

Companies that are customer-obsessed, and what makes them both unique and successful, have been extensively profiled by consultants and the business press. Often, they go so far as to create emotionally driven, engaged and even branded experiences for their customers, strategically differentiating them from their peers.

In addition, these companies focus on the complete customer life cycle, and much more on retention, loyalty and risk mitigation (and even winback) than acquisition. Support experiences are strategic, nimble and seamless, and often omnichannel. Multiple sources of data are used to develop insights. Recognizing the information needs of their customers, they invest in altruistic content creation (over advertising); and they communicate proactively and in as personalized a manner as possible

Customer obsession, what I refer to as “inside-out” customer-centricity, has been a frequent subject of my blogs and articles: One of Albert Einstein’s iconic quotes reflects the complete dedication of resources and values needed for an organization to optimize its relationships with customers: “Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master.” Mastery requires, as well, a storehouse of experience coming from experimentation; so, just like in the pole vault and high jump, we can expect that the customer-centricity bar will continue to be raised.

Building Customer-Centric, Trust-Based Relationships

More than a buzzword, “being human,” especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years.

More than a buzzword, “being human,” especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years.

Most brands and corporations get by on transactional approaches to customer relationships. These might include customer service speed, occasional price promotions, merchandising gimmicks, new product offerings, and the like. In most instances, the customers see no brand “personality” or brand-to-brand differentiation, and their experience of the brand is one-dimensional, easily capable of replacement. Moreover, the customer has no personal investment in choosing, and staying with, one brand or supplier over another.

A key opportunity for companies to become stronger and more viable to customers is creation of branded experiences. Beyond simply selling a product or service, these “experiential brands” connect with their customers. They understand that delivering on the tangible and functional elements of value are just tablestakes, and that connecting and having an emotionally based relationship with customers is the key to leveraging loyalty and advocacy behavior.

These companies are also invariably quite disciplined. Every aspect of a company’s offering—customer service, advertising, packaging, billing, products, etc.—are all thought out for consistency. They market, and create experiences, within the branded vision. IKEA might get away with selling super-expensive furniture, but it doesn’t. Starbucks might make more money selling Pepsi, but it doesn’t. Every function that delivers experience is “closed-loop,” carefully maintaining balance between customer expectations and what is actually executed.

In his 2010 book, “Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit,” noted marketing scholar Philip Kotler recognized that the new model for organizations was to treat customers not as mere consumers, but as the complex, multi-dimensional human beings they are. Customers, in turn, have been choosing companies and products that satisfy deeper needs for participation, creativity, community and idealism.

This sea change is why, according to Kotler, the future of marketing lies in creating products, services and company cultures that inspire, include and reflect the values of target customers. It also meant that every transaction and touchpoint interaction, and the long-term relationship, needed to carry the organization’s unique stamp, a reflection of the perceived value represented to the customer.

Kotler picked up a theme that was articulated in the 2007 book, “Firms of Endearment.” Authors Jagdish N. Sheth, Rajendra S. Sisodia and David B. Wolfe called such organizations “humanistic” companies, i.e. those which seek to maximize their value to each group of stakeholders, not just to shareholders. As they state, right up front (Chapter 1, Page 4):

“What we call a humanistic company is run in such a way that its stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, business partners, society, and many investors—develop an emotional connection with it, an affectionate regard not unlike the way many people feel about their favorite sports teams. Humanistic companies—or firms of endearment (FoEs)—seek to maximize their value to society as a whole, not just to their shareholders. They are the ultimate value creators: They create emotional value, experiential value, social value, and, of course, financial value. People who interact with such companies feel safe, secure, and pleased in their dealings. They enjoy working with or for the company, buying from it, investing in it, and having it as a neighbor.”

For these authors, a truly great company is one that makes the world a better place because it exists. It’s as simple as that. In the book, they have identified about 30 companies, from multiple industries, that met their criteria. They included CarMax, BMW, Costco, Harley-Davidson, IKEA, JetBlue, Johnson & Johnson, New Balance, Patagonia, Timberland, Trader Joe’s, UPS, Wegmans and Southwest Airlines. Had the book been written a bit later, it’s likely that Zappos would have made their list, as well.

The authors compared financial performance of their selections with the 11 public companies identified by Jim Collins in “Good to Great” as superior in terms of investor return over an extended period of time. Here’s what they learned:

  • Over a 10-year horizon, their selected companies outperformed the “Good to Greatcompanies by 1,028 percent to 331 percent (a 3.1 to 1 ratio)
  • Over five years, their selected companies outperformed the “Good to Great companies by 128 percent to 77 percent (a 1.7 to 1 ratio)

Just on the basis of comparison to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the public companies singled out by “Firms of Endearment” returned 1,026 percent for investors during the 10 years ending June 30, 2006, compared to 122 percent for the S&P 500—more than an 8 to 1 ratio. Over 5 years, it was even higher—128 percent compared to 13 percent, about a 10 to 1 ratio. Bottom line: Being human is good for the balance sheet, as well as the stakeholders.

Exemplars of branded customer experience also understand that there is a “journey” for customers in relationships with preferred companies. It begins with awareness, how the brand is introduced, i.e. the promise. Then, promise and created expectations must at least equal—and, ideally, exceed—real-world touchpoint results (such as through service), initially and sustained over time, with a minimum of disappointment.

As noted, there is a strong recognition that customer service is especially important in the branded experience. Service is one of the few times that companies will directly interact with their customers. This interaction helps the company understand customers’ needs while, at the same time, shaping customers’ overall perception of the company and influencing both downstream communication and future purchase.

And, branding the customer experience requires that the brand’s image, its personality if you will, is sustained and reinforced in communications and in every point of contact. Advanced companies map and plan this out, recognizing that experiences are actually a form of branding architecture, brought to life through excellent engineering. Companies need to focus on the touchpoints which are most influential.

Also, how much influence do your employees have on customer value perceptions and loyalty behavior through their day-to-day interactions? All employees, whether they are customer-facing or not, are the key common denominator in delivering optimized branded customer experiences. Making the experience for customers positive and attractive at each point where the company interacts with them requires an in-depth understanding of both customer needs and what the company currently does to achieve that goal, particularly through the employees. That means companies must fully comprehend, and leverage, the impact employees have on customer behavior.

So, is your company “human”? Does it understand customers and their individual journeys? Are customer experiences “human” and branded? Is communication, and are marketing efforts, micro-segmented and even personalized? Does the company create emotional, trust-based connections and relationships with customers? If the answer to these questions is “YES,” then “being human” becomes a reality, the value of which has been recognized for some time, and not merely as a buzz-concept.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: How Twitter Helped Tax Season Run Smoothly for TurboTax

If you think you’re busy putting your taxes together during tax season, think about how busy it must be for the employees at Intuit, who work with its TurboTax brand.

If you think you’re busy putting your taxes together during tax season, think about how busy it must be for the employees at Intuit, who work with its TurboTax brand.

To help make the process of answering all the questions it receives during tax season more efficient and effective, TurboTax launched a major Twitter initiative in February. It enlisted 40 employees — everyone from tax experts to product managers to support reps — to answer both tax and software questions through its Twitter account.

The process was managed with the help of ExactTarget’s Twitter platform CoTweet, a sort of CRM Twitter software that enables users to easily search for questions across Twitter about taxes; assign customer tweets to the right expert within the company; and respond to the customer in short order. In fact, the program enabled TurboTax employes to answer tweets in less than four minutes.

The program worked. After April 15, TurboTax surveyed its customers and received the following results:

  • 54 percent of TurboTax Twitter followers specifically sought tax help;
  • 48 percent of users said TurboTax was effective in helping them complete tax returns; and
  • 77 percent of users said they’d likely recommend TurboTax.

Best practices
Because of the success TurboTax enjoyed, I asked Chelsea Marti, public relations and social media manager at TurboTax, to come up with some best practices associated with using Twitter for business. She offered the following three:

1. Remember that you’re a brand. “While you may want to personalize your approach with your Twitter followers, remember that you’re a brand first; don’t invade their personal spaces,” Marti said. “Start out by introducing yourself and saying hello, then start answering questions. Don’t start hawking your products or throwing information at them right off the bat.”

2. Keep it fun. “We find that we have much better engagement with followers when we’re light-hearted and friendly,” Marti said.

3. Plan ahead. “Before you begin an enterprise-level Twitter program, have a plan in place,” Marti warned. “Spend a substantial amount of time searching for how people are talking about your brand on Twitter before answering questions.”

Do you have any Twitter for business best practices you’d like to share? Please do so here.

Postal service in Finland tries an experiment that direct marketers will despise

Did you see this story about Finland’s postal service? They’re conducting an experiment with a small group of customers, in order to cut down on pollution and overall costs, in which all household mail is opened by postal employees in a “secured” location and then scanned and sent by email to the customer. I suppose, in the age of Facebook, that people don’t mind having other people eyeing their personal mail.

Did you see this story about Finland’s postal service? They’re conducting an experiment with a small group of customers, in order to cut down on pollution and overall costs, in which all household mail is opened by postal employees in a “secured” location and then scanned and sent by email to the customer.

I suppose, in the age of Facebook, that people don’t mind having other people eyeing their personal mail … and that it’s hard as hell to open an envelope by ourself. The UK Telegraph writer begins the story smartly, sounding the alarm bells: “Not even the most intimate love letters, payslips, overdue bills and other personal messages will be spared under the controversial scheme.”

Of course, few of us get love letters anymore, but that doesn’t mean we relish the idea of others checking out our credit card bills. One commentator on a forum called the experiment straight from the KGB play book. (KGB seems a little extreme; I’ll go with Orwellian, instead.) We like our privacy, and it’s why the U.S. Postal Service continues to get such high marks from Americans: Our mail arrives where it’s supposed to, and nobody opens it. Likewise, we receive mail that’s retained its seal. When that seal is broken, so is our trust.

For the volunteer Finns, they can actually get their mail pieces delivered to them, but after it’s been resealed … by a stranger. Creepy, methinks.

The direct marketing community, meanwhile, must frown on such an experiment. Reducing a well designed mail piece to a measly email? Now that’s a lousy deal.

For now, some private companies are offering such services to consumers, such as Earth Class Mail, which originally brought the idea to Swiss Post, and Zumbox, which also scans your mail and then puts it into your Zumbox email box.

But since marketers will be charged anywhere from 2 cents to 5 cents per mail piece on Zumbox, I don’t see that many companies wanting to foot that bill for essentially an upgraded email. Again, it simply robs direct mail of its true “landing” and “feeling” power. They’re acting like the recipient is the beneficiary, but we all know that it’s Zumbox … while customer and mailer alike have their relationship digitally reduced.

And like my colleague Hallie Mummert said to me, “Who’s going to sign up for yet one more inbox via which to receive non-targeted junk mail?” People still like mail, maybe even more so now because there are many ways to control the flow, but people are getting rather sick of email. So in some ways Zumbox, and certainly Finland, may even be behind the curve.

The Yin and Yang of Dealing with Good and Lousy Customers

For years I used to quote the statistic that a satisfied customer will tell three people, while an unhappy customer will tell 11 people. This was B.I. (before the Internet).

Today, an unhappy customer can go online and reach tens of millions of people around the world with an angry message.

One of the most fascinating figures in modern retailing is Bradbury H. (Brad) Anderson, a Northwestern Seminary dropout who went to work for a small midwestern music store called Sound Music. Over the years, Anderson turned the little shop into electronics behemoth Best Buy, with 1,400 stores across the United States and Canada, $45 billion in sales and 155,000 full- and part-time employees.

The corporate philosophy of most giant retailers is to drive every possible consumer into the store with TV advertising, cents-off coupons, mail shots, special newspaper offers and all the other bells and whistles of marketing wizardry.

But Anderson saw that many of these giants were performing poorly.

Several years ago in analyzing Best Buy’s customer file, he discovered that of the 500 million customer visits a year, 20 percent—or 100 million—were unprofitable.

So he hired on as a consultant Columbia Business School Professor Larry Selden, author of “Angel Customers and Demon Customers: Discover Which Is Which and Turbo-Charge Your Stock.”

It was Selden who came up with the revolutionary theory that a company is not a portfolio of product lines, but rather a portfolio of customers.

Direct marketers have operated on that premise since the 1920s.

Selden divides customers into “angels” and “devils.” Angels are the desirable customers who buy stuff and keep it—the kind of folks worth doing business with.

“The devils are its worst customers,” writes Gary McWilliams in his Wall Street Journal account of Best Buy. “They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts. They load up on ‘loss leaders,’ severely discounted merchandise designed to boost store traffic, then flip the goods at a profit on eBay. They slap down rock-bottom price quotes from Web sites and demand that Best Buy make good on its lowest-price pledge.”

As with direct marketers, Best Buy carefully analyzes its customer base, spending time and money to lure the angels into the store and eliminate promotional efforts to the devils. It is also enforcing a 15 percent restocking fee for bad actors.

Unlike direct marketers, Best Buy cannot keep these sleaze balls out of its stores. But it can make life difficult for them while, at the same time, giving excellent service to its good customers.

On the other hand, when you have 155,000 employees, not all are smooth schmoozers or judges of people and absolutely “go by the book.” The result, nice folks can have miserable customer experiences and tell the world.

Satisfied Customers vs. Angry Customers
For years I used to quote the statistic that a satisfied customer will tell three people, while an unhappy customer will tell 11 people. This was B.I. (before the Internet).

Today, an unhappy customer can go online and reach tens of millions of people around the world with an angry message.

What triggered this story was the following e-mail forwarded to me last week by a long-time colleague that directly relates to Brad Anderson’s customer angels-and-devils policy.

Dear friends:

I received several copies of this email. My own take on dealing with retailers like this: Use a credit card.

BEST BUY, MY FOOT
Best Buy has some bad policies…. Normally, I would not share this with others. However, since this could happen to you or your friends, I decided to share it. If you purchase something from Wal-Mart, Sears etc. and you return the item with the receipt they will give you your money back if you paid cash, or credit your account if paid by plastic.

Well, I purchased a GPS for my car, a Tom Tom XL.S from ‘Best Buy’. They have a policy that it must be returned within 14 days for a refund!

So after 4 days I returned it in the original box with all the items in the box, with paper work and cords all wrapped in the plastic. Just as I received it, including the receipt.

I explained to the lady at the return desk I did not like the way it could not find store names. The lady at the refund desk said there is a 15% restock fee for items returned. I said no one told me that. I said how much would that be. She said it goes by the price of the item. It will be $45 for you. I said, all you’re going to do is walk over and place it back on the shelf then charge me $45 of my money for restocking? She said that’s the store policy. I said if more people were aware of it they would not buy anything here! If I bought a $2,000 computer or TV and returned it I would be charged a $300 restock fee? She said yes, 15%.

I said OK, just give me my money minus the restock fee.

She said since the item is over $200, she can’t give me my money back!!!

Corporate has to and they will mail you a check in 7 to ten days. I said ‘WHAT?!’

It’s my money! I paid in cash! I want to buy a different brand. Now I have to wait 7 to 10 days. She said the policy is on the back of the receipt.

I said, Do you read the front or back of your receipt? She said well, the front! I said so do I. I want to talk to the manager!

So the manager comes over, I explained everything to him, and he said, Well, sir, they should have told you about the policy when you got the item. I said, No one has ever told me about the check refund or restock fee, whenever I bought items from computers to TVs from Best Buy. The only thing they ever discussed was the worthless extended warranty program. He said, Well, I can give you the corporate phone number.

I called corporate. The guy said, well, I’m not supposed to do this but I can give you a $45 gift card and you can use it at Best Buy. I told him if I bought something and returned it, you would charge me a restock fee on the item and then send me a check for the remaining $3. You can keep your gift card, I’m never shopping in Best Buy ever again, and if I would of been smart, I would of charged the whole thing on my credit card! Then I could have canceled the transaction.

I would of gotten all my money back including your stupid fees! He didn’t say a word!

I informed him that I was going to e-mail my friends and give them a heads up on this store’s policy, as they don’t tell you about all the little caveats.

So please pass this on. It may save your friends from having a bad experience of shopping at Best Buy

It’s true! read it for yourself!!

Takeaways to Consider

  • As a result of this letter, I will think twice about ever shopping at Best Buy.
  • If this letter was forwarded—and re-forwarded—around the world, tens of thousands of wary prospects will drive right past Best Buy make a point of shopping at Wal-Mart, Target or Radio Shack.
  • It is assumed that you analyze your customers every which way to Sunday. The simplest formula in the direct marketing community is recency-frequency-monetary value (RFM). (Other highly sophisticated systems are available and should be looked into.)
  • Divide customers into quintiles, with the top quintile being your caviar and cream.
  • The bottom quintile is very likely costing you money.
  • The object of marketing is to move customers in the second quintile into the first quintile, the third quintile customers into the second quintile and so on.
  • In direct marketing, it is relatively easy to control the bottom quintile by marketing to it with less frequency, but keeping the addresses current so you can make money off of list rentals.
  • In retail, the bottom quintile is a nightmare. It’s tough to keep undesirable customers out of stores. One possibility is to divide the bottom quintile into its own quintile with the bottom two-fifths—the serial returners and shysters whom you do not want as customers—dealt with firmly.
  • This must be handled with great delicacy. Otherwise consumer activist groups can get on your case and create a flurry of poor publicity.
  • When you go to www.bestbuysux.org, you will find that Best Buy owns it and has turned it into a sales pitch for its products and services.
  • You may want to own the following URLs: www.[YourCompanyName]sucks.org and www.[YourCompanyName]sux.org and follow Best Buy’s example.
  • It used to be axiomatic that a happy customer will tell three people; an unhappy customer will tell 11 others. Today, with the Internet, an unhappy customer can tell the entire world.