David Bowie: The King of Reinvention

Like many, I woke up Monday morning to discover David Bowie had died following an 18-month private battle with cancer, or as some folks in my Twitter feed hoped, he had simply gone back to his home planet.

Many faces of David Bowie
Art by Helen Green

Like many, I woke up Monday morning to discover David Bowie had died following an 18-month private battle with cancer, or as some folks in my Twitter feed hoped, he had simply gone back to his home planet.

The Man Who Fell to EarthThe loss of this charismatic rock legend shook the world, inspiring many to share our favorite moments of his illustrious career.

My earliest memories of Bowie are my mom playing his 1983 hit “Let’s Dance” and dancing around our living room together, watching Labyrinth countless times, and having either one of my parents turn the volume up whenever “Golden Years” or “Changes” came on the car radio. My mom would tell me about his Ziggy Stardust character from the 70s and I would think, “Whoa … this guy is so weird … and so cool.”

Yep, just what me and countless others of all ages thought.

Bowie was a chameleon. He pulled on new identities — new skins — and wore them about, making something amazing while in them, then shedding them for the next. He was more than Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane or Jareth the Goblin King, he was the King of Reinvention and Innovation, and he did it with class and style.

Like a Boss Jareth the Goblin KingBorn David Jones, he changed his name in 1966 at age 19 after Davy Jones achieved fame, concerned at possibly being confused with the wholesome, young-faced Monkee. At 19 I was preoccupied with who knows what, but I doubt it was taking the first steps of building a personal brand.

Not David Bowie. He knew he needed — and wanted — to  set himself a part. David Bowie was always unapologetically Bowie.

Over the next 40-plus years, that’s exactly what he did, spanning the divides of sexuality, gender, musical styles, film, characters … he did it all, and he did it because that’s who he was. No one questioned what he did … we all knew it was Bowie creating new art.

We could all stand to learn a thing or two from The Thin White Duke, as marketers, as dreamers, as humans.

On his 50th birthday at Madison Square Garden, David Bowie said:

I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.

And in an interview with “60 Minutes” in 2002, he shared:

I’m just an individual who doesn’t feel I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me.

Take his words to heart, marketers. Be bold. Reinvent. Don’t be afraid to take risks, create something strange and beautiful.

Ziggy Stardust
Beloved extraterrestrial glam-rocker Ziggy Stardust

Know who you are, and if you don’t, stop and figure it out. It might take a while, and that’s okay. Bowie spent time in his early career grinding through things, figuring out the industry, music and himself.

Many consider his persona Ziggy Stardust as the start of his success, and if that’s the case, he had been performing almost 10 years prior with extremely limited success.

But that never stopped him.

He went on to reinvent himself, time and time again. He didn’t get comfortable in any one aspect of his fame, and he didn’t make the same kind of music over the course of his career; instead he pioneered glam rock, introduced fans to Philadelphia soul, German electronica and more. Reinvention and innovation.

David Bowie took risks and believed in what he did, and in doing so, he leaves a world full of art, as well as a dedicated fan base of strange and beautiful people.

Marketers: Find yourselves, then find yourselves again. Shake things up. Be weird. Be genuine. Believe in what you’re doing, put yourself into it, and delight people who go from being strangers to being  your customers, then finally declaring themselves your most loyal fans.

Find your inner Ziggy Stardust and shine on.

Note: My local independent radio station, WXPN, dedicated their airwaves to Bowie on Monday. My earbuds were in the entire time I wrote this post, bopping along to “Jean Genie” and “Rebel Rebel,” and trying to keep from actually singing aloud and disturbing the rest of the people in the editorial bullpen. Then again, who knows … maybe they would have joined along.

Building Your Brand Religion

Even with the most finicky of customers in an increasingly chaotic and complicated world, lifetime value and brand loyalty can still be achieved. But not how you might think. It’s not the loyalty programs, frequent purchaser points (only 35 percent enrolled redeem these, per Forrester Research), and free gifts that stack up the purchase orders for a given customer. And it’s not the great service that can be matched by your competitors, either. It’s something much deeper. The same something that keeps the church pews warm, tithing coffers full and baptismal fonts busy.

Even with the most finicky of customers in an increasingly chaotic and complicated world, lifetime value and brand loyalty can still be achieved. But not how you might think.

It’s not the loyalty programs, frequent purchaser points (only 35 percent enrolled redeem these, per Forrester Research), and free gifts that stack up the purchase orders for a given customer. And it’s not the great service that can be matched by your competitors, either. It’s something much deeper. The same something that keeps the church pews warm, tithing coffers full and baptismal fonts busy.

The secret to lifetime value and referrals from your customers is really no secret at all. It’s simply the psychology of hope, loss and rewards, and trust that has made religion the biggest industry worldwide. Without question.

Consider:

If loyalty were dead, all of this money could not be generated from the millions of loyal believers who give up, on average, nearly 3 percent of their annual incomes to their religious faiths. If you take just U.S. wage earners with an annual income of $40,000, that comes up to about $93 billion a year in tithing—the equivalent in revenue for the worldwide video game industry in 2013, according to Gartner Research. And you wouldn’t have nearly 44,000 people attending a single group’s service on Sunday where the only product being sold is hope.

While we direct marketers are clearly selling more than hope as we peddle tangible products and services to millions of customers each year, our marketing ROI could truly become divine if we follow even just a few of the tenets from religious psychology. The primary tenets or cornerstones of all successful religions are:

1. Hope or faith in a better life (in this case, an afterlife);

2. Trust in your leaders to guide you with integrity;

3. A sense of community, or like-minded souls who have the same values, ideals and beliefs; and finally,

4. A fervor so strong about your beliefs that you are willing to spend much of your time on this earth spreading your faith’s gospel and bringing others into the fold—all on your own time, at your own expense and without any pay (besides the joy of knowing you brought eternal joy to others).

These are the same four cornerstones that make for successful branding and must be present in any brand’s marketing programs today.

Hope: All products are emotional purchases—your car, life insurance, clothing, furnishings and even food. Each time you swipe that payment card, you are doing so with the unconscious hope of gaining some intangible value associated with that product. Be it status, safety, reliability, an image that will attract romance or job opportunities for you, or a break from the fear of failing your children, spouse or job. What is the hope associated with your products? And yes, this applies to both B-to-B and B-to-C.

Trust: I’m not sure if there has even been a lower level of consumer trust for big brands as there has been in the past decade. Regardless of what industry you are in, trust is fleeting and hard to get, even for a small moment in your customers’ lifetime. Consumers are eager to find brands they can truly trust to stand behind their promises and products, and to actually put consumers’ interests, and those of the community at large, ahead of their own. There a few who do that well. Tom’s shoes is a great example. Even though the company sells a pair of shoes for around $65 which costs it $9 to make—earning it a profit of around $56 a pair—people love and trust Tom’s, because it promises to donate one pair to a needy child for every pair sold. And Tom’s produces evidence that it really fulfills this promise. The leaders of Tom’s shoes are right up there with the rich pastors of the world for selling hope that the world can be a better place, providing people with a means to make it that way, operating with integrity and cashing in on millions at the same time.

Community: Also known as “congregations,” we flock toward people with like values to feel safe, validated and empowered. Many people lose their faith at some point in their lives and question the religion of their childhood, and a large number of these fallen-from-faith adults stay true to their religion at the cost of losing a community of support, friends and a trusted network to be there when they are in need. Leaving is too high a price. The same applies to brand communities. Brands that bring consumers together for events or group discounts like “Family and Friends” create unbreakable equity as consumers pay a price to switch that is far higher than money, in many cases.

Evangelism: We love telling friends about a great purchase and then getting great satisfaction (really, decision validation) when they buy the same thing. It is our innate need to know we are making wise choices that others believe are wise, as well. This is particularly strong when it comes to our faith. The Mormons are famous, partially due to the recent Broadway musical, “Book of Mormon,” for their aggressive missionary program—whereby they have 80,000 missionaries evangelizing all over the world paying their own expenses, and working for free to build the church’s membership base. Why do they do it? Because they truly believe they have found the secret to a happy life and an even better afterlife, and they are compelled to bring others into their joy. This same need to share sources of personal joy with others applies to customers. Like religions, brands just need to create the tools to make it easy to do. Religions like Mormonism and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church have a book that members share with others. Religious-like brands have discounts and free trials for loyal customers to share freely.

When you find the right tools and provide the right incentives to your loyal customers, you can engage free marketers for your brand who will work on their own time, at their own expense and for the reward of knowing someone else loves your products, too! Seriously, what more can a brand want? (Other than a tax exempt status!)

As you start a crafting a new marketing plan, throw out the four Ps and starting focusing on the above “Four Cs”—the cornerstones of your brand’s religion—and see how quickly you reap the rewards in this lifetime (and the next!).

Loyalty Programs? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Loyalty Programs!

Without fear of (much) argument, it’s a fair statement to say that all companies want, and try to generate and achieve, optimum loyalty from their customer bases. They should want this, because study after study shows the financial rewards of having loyal customers. Some companies reach this goal through superior value delivery, built on quality products and services, and positive, consistent customer experiences. For the past several decades, many companies have relied on customer loyalty cards or programs, by which they can track purchase behavior and give rewards for repeat and volume buying activity.

Without fear of (much) argument, it’s a fair statement to say that all companies want, and try to generate and achieve, optimum loyalty from their customer bases. They should want this, because study after study shows the financial rewards of having loyal customers. Some companies reach this goal through superior value delivery, built on quality products and services, and positive, consistent customer experiences. For the past several decades, many companies have relied on customer loyalty cards or programs, by which they can track purchase behavior and give rewards for repeat and volume buying activity.

Customer loyalty programs are especially popular among retailers. During the years, retailers have found these programs to be powerful business tools within their highly competitive markets. But some retailers have completely disavowed loyalty programs, either never initiating them in the first place or canceling them, in favor of reduced pricing. In fact, this has become something of a trend. What’s behind it?

Let’s start with the biggest retailer—Walmart. The company has long claimed that a loyalty program isn’t needed because its prices are so low. Walmart believes that loyalty programs can, indeed, provide excellent information about customers who participate; however, as one Walmart executive put it: ” … some of the loyalty programs are very expensive, and we don’t think that serves everyday low cost and everyday low price.” Lower-than-competition everyday prices has been Walmart’s merchandising and marketing mantra since its inception. But, at least for groceries and sundry products, that often isn’t the case. Supermarket chains like Save-A-Lot and Aldi’s, neither of which has a loyalty program, will often beat Walmart’s item-for-item pricing by a significant margin. And other competitors can use their loyalty programs to selectively pick products, and individual customers, to offer pricing—which undermines Walmart.

As for generating customer purchase data, Walmart has a “scan & go” app for mobile devices, which allows customers to scan their own items as they shop; and this provides the company with valuable information on what customers are purchasing, the length of time they’re shopping in the store, and what offers and coupons might drive future purchases. Walmart uses additional methods of understanding individual customer purchases. One of these is Walmart credit cards. Another is reloadable MasterCard and Visa debit cards. A third is “Bluebird,” a prepaid debit card which functions as Walmart customers’ alternative to having a checking account, with which they can make deposits, pay bills—and shop at Walmart. Like Tesco is already doing in the U.K, Walmart has been considering development of its own bank, which would provide even more customer data.

Asda, a Walmart-owned supermarket chain in the U.K, also has no loyalty program. It’s the second-largest supermarket company, behind Tesco; and, as in the U.S., newer low-priced chains, such as Aldi, are actively competing with Asda. In place of a loyalty program, Asda believes it provides customers with what they want most, a “great multichannel retail experience.” The chain, according to executives, focuses on the key fundamentals: prices, quality, convenience and service. Alex Chrusczcz, Asda’s head of insights and pricing, offers two explanations of how the organization is endeavoring to build customer loyalty:

  • “Aspire to treat customers equally, or you’ll create a fractured brand and shopping experience. If you have someone paying one price and another customer with a coupon paying a different price, the perception of the brand is becoming fractured. Make sure it’s consistent.”
  • “Be pragmatic in terms of technology and analytics. They aren’t a silver bullet. Use these tools and combine them with the experience of your team.”

From my perspective, the second explanation is common sense; however, the first statement is really questionable—even counterintuitive, if a subordinating goal of loyalty behavior is to help drive customer-centricity. Simply put, all customers are not equal in value; and marketing strategies which treat them as such often create lower revenue.

In the U.S., regional supermarket chain Publix has no loyalty program. The company doesn’t have, as a result, the ability to track, at a household level, what customers are and aren’t purchasing in their stores. What Publix does, instead of loyalty cards, is try different alternative approaches to build sales. One of these, for example, was to test a program where shoppers could set up an online account where they could digitally clip coupons; and then, in the Publix store, the discounts they’d set up online could be automatically applied by typing in their phone numbers. Publix also has a BOGO program for their own brands, and accepts competitors’ coupons in their stores.

Some retailers do more than emphasize the sales and service fundamentals. They build genuine passion for, and bonding with, the brand by creating a more human, emotional connection. And, though there are few organizations like this, retailers such as Trader Joe’s are the exception that proves the rule. Trader Joe’s has no customer loyalty program. What they have is enthusiasm, achieved through differentiated, every-changing customer experiences, enhanced by upbeat, helpful employees. This has enabled Trader Joe’s to generate sales per square foot that are double the sales per square foot of Whole Foods. So, another way of stating that Trader Joe’s creates loyalty behavior without a program is to say: The shopping experience is, defacto, the loyalty program.

Now, we come to retailers which had customer loyalty programs, usually of long-standing, and elected to discontinue them. Actually, much of this has been done by one organization, Cerberus Capital Group, the early 2013 purchaser of multiple regional retail supermarket chains from Supervalu (Shaw’s, Acme, Star, Albertson’s and Jewel-Osco). Calling the new positioning “card-free savings,” and reflective of the first strategy stated above by Asda, each of the chains issued statements with themes like “We want buying to be simple for all, so that every (name of company) customer gets the same price whether a loyalty card has been used or not.” Additionally, and again like Asda, these chains have said they will go back to the basics: clean stores, well-stocked shelves, reduced checkout time, clearly marked sale items and creation of a more customer-focused culture. Some of their executives have also theorized that the chains will now adopt a more local-level approach, rather than customer-level, to their decision-making, and that individual store managers will now be more actively involved in driving successful performance.

So, the chains acquired by Cerberus appear to believe that “sunsetting,” or eliminating these programs, is a calculated risk and that they would still find good ways of providing value to retain more loyal customers, as well as incentives for those with the potential to move from purchase infrequency. Most analysts, however, felt that Cerberus eliminated the programs largely because the chains they purchased were either not mining card data, or not effectively analyzing and applying this material for better marketing and merchandising, thus making the loyalty systems too expensive to maintain.

Cerberus has entered into takeover discussions with California-based Safeway, which also owns Vons and Pavilion. If this sale takes place, it’s a good bet that these chains will also drop their reward cards, because Cerberus-owned supermarkets clearly don’t need, or want, no stinkin’ loyalty programs.

Email Marketing: 5 Steps to Better Results

The biggest challenge with email marketing is that it is so easy to be successful marketers don’t reach for the next level. After all, when something isn’t broken, why invest time and energy in making it better? Most marketers don’t make the effort to optimize their strategy because “good enough” serves them well enough. For those who want more, optimizing emails delivers more than additional sales—it turns casual shoppers into long-term loyal customers by creating a better shopping experience.

This post is excerpted from the e-book “31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.”

The biggest challenge with email marketing is that it is so easy to be successful marketers don’t reach for the next level. After all, when something isn’t broken, why invest time and energy in making it better? Most marketers don’t make the effort to optimize their strategy because “good enough” serves them well enough. For those who want more, optimizing emails delivers more than additional sales—it turns casual shoppers into long-term loyal customers by creating a better shopping experience.

There are four reasons to send emails to customers and prospects: Acquisition, retention, sales and service. Most companies are very good at generating sales with emails, but fail miserably at the other three objectives. People miss opportunities to acquire new customers, improve relationships and increase satisfaction because email marketing is so good at generating revenue. Simple changes to your email marketing strategy make a big difference in results.

The first step is to complete a mini review of your email marketing program to see how effective it is at acquisition, retention, sales and service. Make a list of the emails sent over the last year and place them into the appropriate category.

What percentage of the emails were designed to acquire new customers? This includes all emails sent to prospects and those that specifically ask customers to share the information with a friend. (Placing a “Tell a Friend” button in the email doesn’t count.) How effective were the acquisition emails at generating new prospects and customers? What changes made them better? How much did it cost to acquire new people?

How many of the emails were specifically designed to keep customers coming back? This question is often met with the response, “our promotional emails keep customers coming back.” If your company is Walmart or you can effectively compete with low price leaders, this response is right. If your company is like most, you don’t have the margins to guarantee the lowest prices and need to create loyalty-based customer relationships.

Do your sales emails consistently generate revenue, or are you seeing peaks and valleys? Email promotional programs are very predictable once you have enough historical data. Peaks and valleys that are not seasonal suggest that there may be underlying issues affecting your revenue. Subscriber fatigue is one such issue. It happens when people receive the same type of emails over an extended period of time.

The first sign of subscriber fatigue is a decline in open rates. If there is nothing new, then why open the email? The second sign is a higher click-through rate on opened emails. When people are ready to make a purchase, they look for a discount. The combination of lower open rates and higher click-throughs indicate that your emails may have become a coupon mecca.

Are your service emails a statement of facts or a conversation with your customers? Order and shipping confirmation emails can be much more than “here’s your information, thank you for your order” notices. They can be entertaining and sharable.

A good email marketing strategy increases sales. A great email marketing strategy increases sales, introduces the company to new people, and keeps customers’ happily coming back for more. The only way to move from good to great is to optimize every email sent to customers and prospects. Tips for making the move include:

  • Partner with non-competitive companies and organizations to connect with new prospects. Selective partnerships help grow your company’s prospect list exponentially. Allies from corporate and non-profit worlds can introduce your business to new people that are highly targeted. In turn, your participation provides reciprocal information or financial support.
  • Customize emails to buying behavior. There are three very good reasons to invest time and effort into modeling emails around buying behavior. They are response, revenue and retention. Carefully crafting individually customized emails improves results. You don’t have to have the analytics chops of a large company to do this well. Even small changes can make a difference.
  • Analyze email customers differently. People who choose to receive your emails are different from other customers. They order more often and spend more money when they buy, but this doesn’t automatically translate into more profitability. If subscribers are primarily buying at discounted prices, they generate higher revenue and lower profits.
  • Use reminders to help customers. Your customers are busy people. They don’t always remember that cars need servicing or they are about to run out of consumable goods. People tend to take the path of least resistance. When your company makes it easy for them to take care of maintenance and replacement issues, they seldom look elsewhere. Pricing is less of an issue because purchasing from your company becomes a habit they don’t want to break.
  • Send people to the right place. The Internet is a wonderland filled with rabbit holes that take people away from your marketing messages. Your customers and prospects will become distracted and venture off to other activities if they do not have a clear path to follow. The emails they receive from your company are the starting point of a map to the final objective. Anything that isn’t easily recognized as the next step or requires the traveler to stop and think is a diversion that needs to be eliminated.

For more, check out the full e-book “31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.” The e-book shows how to make simple changes that improve email marketing results with examples of what works and doesn’t.

Why SMS Will Be Your Mobile Workhorse and 5 Ideas to Get You Started

We’ve talked about the importance of a mobile-friendly Web presence and mobile-optimized email for your small business. But there is one mobile tool that your small business should be leveraging that will be a key puzzle piece to the success of your mobile strategy. Some might argue that SMS is the most effective mobile channel that exists, when it comes to ROI.

We’ve talked about the importance of a mobile-friendly Web presence and mobile-optimized email for your small business. But there is one mobile tool that your small business should be leveraging that will be a key puzzle piece to the success of your mobile strategy.

Some might argue that SMS is the most effective mobile channel that exists, when it comes to ROI.

There is a reason it continues to be the workhorse within the mobile strategies of brands like Coca-Cola, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Target, jcpenney and many more.

5 reasons SMS will be the workhorse in your mobile strategy.

Instant Deliverability: SMS messages offer one of the most immediate marketing channels for businesses. More than 97 percent of messages are read within four minutes of receipt. So if you have a message that is time sensitive, there is no better way to connect with your customer.

Everyone’s Reachable: Nearly 100 percent of the handsets on the market can send and receive text messages. I don’t care that we’ve surpassed 50 percent smartphone penetration in the USA. I don’t care that that will continue to grow. You’re missing out on 40 percent to 50 percent of your audience right now by catering to smartphone-only customers.

Just because my 65-year-old dad has an iPhone now doesn’t mean he will use it the way I do. But you know what … he sure sends a whole lot more text messages to me.

Highest-Possible Visibility: Remember how I said that 97 percent of SMS messages are read within four minutes? Well, that means that 97 percent of your SMS messages are being read—period. When was the last time your email open rate was over 90 percent? I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

Now I’m not saying “Stop using email.” Email is super powerful and has its place. But SMS offers you a new, quick, high-converting way to connect with your customers that no channel can match.

Highly Targeted: Because buying lists is a no-no when it comes to SMS, you have to build your database of loyal customers. Being a permission-based marketing vehicle, your customers have to opt in to receiving these messages from you.

Yes, that means they essentially raised their hands and said, “I’d like you to connect with me on my most personal device.” The next best thing in my mind is if your customer invites you over for dinner. Mmmmm …

Cost Effective, Considering the Return: For all you marketing folk, this means Return on Investment (ROI).

SMS is way more affordable than you think. Many of you still spend a good part of your budget on direct mail. Again, it has its place in your marketing mix. But look at some of the costs associated with direct mail: You have postage, shipping, mailing lists, printing, packaging/fulfillment etc.

Direct mail depends on your volume. But, at the end of the day, you could be spending 20 cents to more than a dollar per piece. SMS could cost you pennies per message.

As a small business, a Yellow Pages ad could cost you up to $4,000 per year. Yes, people (especially older demographics) do still reach for their Yellow Pages when they need a business in a hurry, but it offers little to no engagement or tracking.

Depending on the size of your small businesses, incorporating SMS into your monthly budget could run you $25 to a few hundred bucks a month. The level of return will far outweigh your older, traditional media vehicles.

OK, so you’re sold on adding mobile to your marketing mix. Congratulations, it was a wise decision, trust me.

Here are 5 ideas for you to get started with SMS this year.

Mobilize Your Loyalty Program: Begin building your list of mobile numbers and send timely, relevant messaging to your customers. This can include special mobile-only offers, promotion opportunities, sales, new product or service offerings.

The more you can personalize these messages, the better. Many of you may already have some sort of loyalty program in place. I’m not asking you to do something totally new. Just add SMS as a component of the loyalty program to bring loyal customers back with relevant, high-value messaging.

Mobilize Your Coupons: Target, jcpenney and Bed Bath & Beyond are great examples of this. Each and every week, these businesses send mobile coupons to their mobile databases. It’s fast, cost effective and convenient for the customers who prefer to receive these offers to their phones. They just bring their phones to the store and redeem their mobile coupons at the point of purchase.

Eliminate No-Shows: Does your businesses depend on filling appointment slots? Doctors, Lawyers, Salons, etc. rely on filling appointments, but what happens when your customer misses an appointment?

Let me guess, you don’t charge for no-shows? Some estimates state that missed appointments for a single physician can be as much as $150,000 in lost revenue and additional labor costs. Multi-physician offices are even more drastic, estimating no-shows in a single year resulting in losses of over $1 million.

So how can SMS eliminate no-shows?

Why not send an appointment reminder via SMS within an hour or two prior to the appointment? Include a number for those who have to cancel. Better yet, let them reply to the message so that it updates your appointment software.

Oh no, someone canceled! Send out a message to your database to fill that last-minute appointment.

If you’re a salon, restaurant or massage therapist, you can send a message to your customer SMS list offering a savings opportunity to the one that fills that appointment slot.

Add SMS and stop losing money due to no-shows.

Engage Customers With Giveaways: Sweepstakes and giveaways have been great ways to build your SMS list in the early stages.

Offer up one big prize and let your customers text in to enter. Give away a monthly prize and give customers a reason to stay on your list.

Not only do sweepstakes entice customers to opt-in, but everyone loves winning prizes. Is giving away one or two free services a month worth generating hundreds of new opt-ins to communicate with moving forward?

Learn About Your Customers With Polls and Surveys: Did one of your loyal customers just purchase from you? A quick SMS message could let them provide valuable feedback on their experience.

SMS is a two-way interactive tool that lets customers provide feedback just by replying to your messages.

Are you thinking about releasing a new product or service? Are you a restaurant and looking to add a new menu item? Poll your audience to get their feedback to help make smarter decisions.

Bonus point: Tie a sweepstakes to your survey and award a lucky customer with a prize of some sort to encourage participation.

Now it’s on you.

These are just a few ways you could quickly begin to incorporate SMS marketing into your business. It’s important to remember that SMS without a strategy or goal will lead to poor results.

Make sure you understand why you’re adding SMS and determine measurements for success to continually optimize your efforts.

The trick is to not re-invent the wheel. You should look to mobilize initiatives you already have in place.

You don’t need to create a separate marketing initiative. You’re already doing what you need to do. Now mobilize it.

5 Surprising Email Metrics That Transform Businesses

Email is the most effective under-utilized marketing tool available. The instant revenue generated with each send lures marketers into the trap of sending one sale email after another. Measuring these metrics will begin the process that moves email programs from one-off promotions to campaigns designed to acquire prospects and convert them into loyal customers.

Email is the most effective under-utilized marketing tool available. The instant revenue generated with each send lures marketers into the trap of sending one sale email after another. Investing the time to create a program that builds long term relationships seems almost wasteful. After all, the low hanging fruit is easy to get and there are so many other things that need doing.

Measuring the following metrics begins the process that moves email programs from one-off promotions to campaigns designed to acquire prospects and convert them into loyal customers. The people who subscribe to emails are highly qualified candidates for long-term relationships. They are interested in your company’s offerings and have given you permission to share information with them. Providing more than the latest sale prices opens the door to unlimited potential.

  1. Acquisition—How many prospects did your email program acquire last year? What percentage was converted to customers? Email is an exceptional prospecting tool. It is low cost with potentially high return. Create a specific process designed to acquire prospects and convert them into customers. Measure it carefully so you have benchmarks for improvement. Set specific goals to insure that the marketing team’s focus extends beyond the daily revenue stream.
  2. Retention—How well are you keeping customers coming back? Who is participating in your email program? Are they platinum customers with consistent purchase patterns of regular priced and discounted items? Are they discount customers who only buy sale items? (This type may be mislabeled if you only send discount emails.) Or, are they hit-&-run shoppers who subscribed with their first purchase but have never ordered again? Knowing the retention rates and customer types helps create a program that keeps customers coming back.
  3. Engagement—Direct marketers know that motivating people to do something increases the likelihood that they will make a purchase. This is why direct mail pieces have scratch-offs, peel and stick labels, and other devices designed to motivate people to act. Email is a tool that makes it easy for people to do much more than that. It has the option for the two way communication that builds relationships. Personal messages encourage people to respond emotionally and create connections between customer and company. Strong connections keep competitors from stealing customers.
  4. Lifespan—Email customers have a different lifespan from customers acquired or active via other channels. Knowing how people behave from first purchase to last provides information that can be used to fine-tune the email program. Monitoring this data helps identify trends. Watch for course changing events that shorten or lengthen individual lifespans so you can adjust marketing and service as needed.
  5. Comparable Values—Customers acquired via the same channel who have similar activity typically have comparable value in annual sales and profitability. A wide variance in comparable value provides an early warning system before the bottom line starts dropping. If you see value inconsistencies, look for causes that include marketing fatigue, service issues, increased competition, and niche saturation.

The people who subscribe to your email program are like the ones who receive direct mail pieces or catalogs. They respond to the same triggers, so the tactics that work for direct mail work for electronic media too. Design a strategy that moves beyond sale flyers to build a loyal following. Creating an email marketing strategy designed to acquire prospects, convert them to customers, and keeps them coming back for more is simply good business guaranteed to generate a great return.

Turn Your Customers Into Your Best Salespeople

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Enabling satisfied customers to spread the word takes a combination of the right messaging and some careful listening to ensure you don’t lose out on valuable opportunities for positive online word-of-mouth. Empower your brand advocates by devoting attention to these four specific areas:

1. A great customer experience. Certain customers will go out of their way to praise a high-quality product, helpful customer service or even a compelling interaction with a brand. (This holds true whether they’re B-to-C or B-to-B customers.) Naturally, the first step is to offer a great product or service. Then start paying attention to who’s talking about your brand, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it. Social media listening tools will help you locate enthusiastic customers online. Make them prime targets for engagement.

Don’t wait for the active few, go after the silent majority, too. The primary reason most customers don’t share good news about brands they do business with is because they’re never asked. After every appropriate interaction — and without being creepy or becoming a nag — invite your customers to participate in product reviews, experience surveys, customer forums or just plain telephone calls as part of “executive outreach sessions.” Use the channel that the customer used, whether it’s SMS, social, email or retail.

2. Loyalty. Customers willing to share their positive experiences with your brand are well worth your time and resources. Once you’ve found these happy customers, invest in them to create a loyal following. You can’t underestimate the power of simply thanking customers for their business.

In addition, keep your database up to date and integrated with your segmentation and campaign management tools. Update customer profiles to include recognition of brand advocacy and nurture loyalty with special acknowledgments, promotions and discounts. It’s critical to keep these interactions relevant, personalized and well-timed. In other words, don’t spam. Just because you can email a brand advocate on her birthday, before holidays and whenever her favorite item is on sale doesn’t mean your messages will be welcome.

Track response rates over time so you can optimize message frequency and timing. While many of your loyal customers will be happy to receive lots of notices from you, never assume their interest. One of our retail clients recently found that a whopping 10 percent of their most loyal customers had marked their email messages as spam in the past year. When the retailer reached out to these customers via other channels to find out why, it learned that the email messages were too frequent and not specific to the interests of those customers. Don’t risk upsetting or annoying your customers to the point of complaints. Listen to the response data you have and back off when necessary.

3. A platform to promote. Help your brand advocates find their voice by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings online. They’re multichannel, so think across channels too. Engage them via email, your website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make sure they feel welcome to talk about their positive customer experiences online.

Is your company blog comment friendly? Do you provide a timely response to mentions of your brand on Twitter? Are you using clickstream and email data to inform your personas and segmentation? Does your website provide easy access to contact information for customer service and social media accounts? Present a seamless approach across all platforms — both traditional and digital — so that your messaging is consistent and credible.

4. Pull your head out of the sand. There are dozens of examples every month of brands that tried to ignore negative social commentary or got “shamed” for suppressing negative comments on Facebook. Nestle, for example, battled with Greenpeace supporters who voiced their concerns over the company’s use of palm oil. Rather than listening and engaging with concerned consumers, Nestle created a wealth of bad PR for itself by deleting posts and snapping back at fans. Similarly, Pfizer agitated consumers by deleting Facebook posts that suggested one of its viral video campaigns may be sexist.

If you’re going to listen and respond to social data, you must accept and engage with consumers who don’t agree with your positions or didn’t have a good brand experience. Like all battles of public opinion, the trick is to empower your advocates to respond to your detractors while providing a fact-based, reasonable platform for thoughtful discussion.

Brand advocates have always played the role of valuable, cost-effective salespeople. Now their voices can be amplified even more via social media networks. With a little encouragement and support, today’s brand advocates can become a powerful sales force. Put marketing automation and integration tools to work and you’ll be able to find your satisfied customers, engage with them and delight them even more with offers and promotions that resonate and cultivate deeper brand loyalty.