7 Event Planning Tips and Tricks From the Pros

Event planning is an eloquent art that can leave a lasting impression on attendees. Strategic event planning can be used to create new relationships, promote a product and increase employee participation. When done right, an event will leave a positive lasting impression long after it has passed. Follow this easy to use, step-by-step guide to plan an event like the pros.

Event planning is an eloquent art that can leave a lasting impression on attendees. Strategic event planning can be used to create new relationships, promote a product and increase employee participation. When done right, an event will leave a positive lasting impression long after it has passed.

Follow this easy to use, step-by-step guide to plan an event like the pros.

1. Event Planning with a Purpose

The beginning stages of event planning can never start too early. The first thing you should focus on is the purpose of your event. Are you fundraising, holding an informational workshop or corporate event? Or maybe your event is a celebration like a birthday party, wedding or anniversary. Whatever the occasion, once you clearly define your purpose, other things will fall into place, including who will be attending, the décor and how the occasion will be organized.

2. Gather Volunteers

Event planning is hard work and it can be difficult to go it alone. If you know people who are willing to volunteer, you can start delegating specific tasks to them. Sending invites, welcoming guests and cleaning are things you should think about when considering who is going to do what. If you are unable to find people who can help you for free, consider hiring a crew.

3. Create an Event Budget

If you don’t create a budget, you run the risk of spending way more than you had anticipated. Think about the cost of location, staff, food and whatever other expenses will be incurred. Try to save money wherever possible.  This can be done by finding inexpensive venues and using volunteers rather than a hired staff.

4. Decide on the Event Time and Place

Before deciding on a date, think about what else might be happening around that time. If there are other events that are similar to yours happening on the same date, it may hurt your attendance. Also, consider working around holidays and school or work schedules.

When thinking about location, find something that will be easily accessible for your guests. Also, note that your venue should be booked in advance, so you can be sure it will be available on the date you are requesting. If you are planning an event in Detroit, Brooklyn Outdoor can provide an industrial chic loft with panoramic views of the city. Use of this space includes an attentive staff that can see to every last detail.

6. Other Logistics

Other logistics to be considered include parking, what items and equipment you will need, whether you want to provide giveaways for your guests to take home and whether you want to have a photographer present to document the event.

7. The Countdown

As the event gets closer, you will realize there is a lot of be done to make everything run smoothly. When you are about two weeks out from the event, you will want to think about meeting with your team, visiting the venue and confirming your guest list to make sure everyone is on the same page.

During this time, it is easy to become stressed out so do your best to keep calm. Careful planning in the early stages can help to eliminate some of the stress. Planning an event is a lot of work, but if you are well organized, it can go relatively smoothly.

How to Negotiate a Risk-Sharing Marketing Contract

The marketing service company’s smooth and promising presentation assures me that hiring it will certainly grow my business. “Trust us,” they say, “We have a winning strategy and we’ll all celebrate the fantastic results.”

marketing negotiations
“Salary Negotiations,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by MIke Kline

The marketing service company’s smooth and promising presentation assures me that hiring it will certainly grow my business. “Trust us,” they say, “We have a winning strategy and we’ll all celebrate the fantastic results.”

I want to believe them, but they come at a high price and we are not rolling in cash during these difficult and fast-changing times. If I were the potential client and they offered to minimize my front-end cost and share the risk of under-performance, I‘d find their proposal very attractive and credible. I’d feel comfortable sharing success with someone who is willing to share failure.

Entrepreneurs know that a strong component of commercial success depends upon getting their businesses noticed and engaging customers to buy their products or service. They also know or should know that this marketing and advertising task can consume substantial resources. If they can get their marketing partners to share this investment, through some form of split of the generated revenue, it can be a definite win-win. That’s why revenue-sharing and other forms of remuneration are becoming the new normal.

The historic 15 percent “commission” system was the basis for agency remuneration in the days of “Mad Men,” but tougher times have diminished the number of martinis and brought with them far more competitive systems of compensation. Now they are being asked — compelled, in some cases — to put their money where their mouths are: to mutual benefit. Some of the world’s most successful direct response copywriters have done this for years, and the winners have earned enormous sums from grateful clients who tried and tried, but were unable to beat the controls they created years ago.

Some years past, on a conference panel, I asked an advertising sales director of Globo TV (Brazil’s largest media company) what value he put on a 30-second commercial slot that Globo had failed to sell. Looking at me as if I were an escapee from a gringo nut house, he said it was obviously worth nothing. What, I then asked, if a potential advertiser were willing to guarantee to pay? Say, 35 percent of the normal price for any unsold advertising spots, a standard procedure in the U.S.? He emphatically said he would never even consider it. If he still has a job, it is unlikely he would take that view today, when Google is gorging itself on 80 percent of the fall in broadcast and print advertising.

To make revenue share work, the agency, consultancy or service provider needs to carefully do its homework. This “communicator” will first need to be able to assess the real cost of the time of the professionals who will be involved in the project.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 1

Using a matrix like this, which sets various ranges of monthly compensation, assumes 1,800 (or some more appropriate number) of working hours per year, it’s easy to see the “Actual Cost Per Hour” for each category of professional. But we all know that 100 percent of the hours will not be billable. (Sometimes, there really isn’t much to do but chat on Facebook.) So we make a guesstimate of the percentage (here, 60 percent) of billable hours and increase the “Cost Rate” accordingly.

And of course we want to make a profit. (That’s the name of the game, isn’t it?) So to establish a minimum “Bill Rate,” we gross up the “Cost Rate” accordingly. And finally, we can round it up if we wish.

The professional responsible for pricing this project only has to input the number of professionals in each category and the estimated number of hours each will have to spend on the project and ZAP, the professional costs (including the percentage for hours not billable and the profit-loaded (29.3 percent) quotation amount for the professionals) is ready and waiting.

Collecting the other costs for the project, data, media, etc., (with or without mark-ups depending on policy and competitive pressure) and then adding them to the professional costs provides the essential baseline for a revenue share negotiation. You know your real costs and you know these costs with profit and the amount you would quote as a fixed fee. The old wise adage says; Never gamble more than you can afford to lose. That wisdom should inform what “revenue share” you are prepared to accept.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 2

But that’s only from the communicator’s side.

What does the “marketer” have to know? And more importantly, what does he need to share with the communicator?

The answer is simply how much he can afford to get an “open,” a clickthrough, a lead or a final sale. Which of these he wants from the communicator depends upon his briefing of the communicator and whether the marketer knows his historic metrics for the journey from advertising through to the final sale. Keeping it simple, let’s assume that the marketer knows his numbers and has an expectation of selling 500 units at $850 each. He can afford it, but is unlikely to want to pay 10 percent of $85 per unit sold.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 3

Because the communicator knows that to make his profit objective, he needs $26,125 or an alternative revenue share and must have a minimum of $19,592 to break even, he is well prepared to enter into a revenue-share negotiation.

Let’s look at it this way.

The communicator’s leverage for negotiation is the spread between his cost $19,592 and his quotation amount $26,125. To make its quotation amount, the communicator needs just $52.25 per sale. To cover his cost, he only needs $39.18. If the communicator receives $52.25 per sale, he only needs 375 sales to recover his costs. If the actual sales number is above 500, say, 550, the communicator will receive his full quotation amount plus 50 times $52.25, or an additional $2,612.

The question for the communicator is how much to ask for? Sixty percent of the $85 allowable would give $51 per sale — just short of the $52.25 needed to make the quotation amount at 500 sales: 50 percent would be $42.50. Not bad. Looked at from the marketer’s side, with no up-front cost, sharing the $85 allowable on a more or less equal basis should seem fair.

Peter Rosenwald's Chart 4

I’d argue for $50 per sale as a good compromise, but each negotiation is different and each person will have to define his own limits. Hopefully, the use of these tools and this methodology will help.

Peter Rosenwald's Final

Customer Delight Is Better Than Marketing

We often think of disruption coming from a new product, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier ways to do things that create customer delight … and disruption.

We often think of disruption coming from new products, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier way to do things that creates customer delight … and disruption.

New Service Systems = Disruption

The computer didn’t create a new kind of ledger, writing or art (at least initially), but it made them easier to do. It improved the service to users.

In the keynote at Inbound17, Brian Halligan, CEO and founder of HubSpot, showed how, today, it’s not the new product that disrupts an industry, it’s the new service. Disruption comes not from a new thing, but a new way of delivering a thing people love and need that eliminates the hassles they hated in the old delivery system.

He specifically pointed to Uber, iTunes and NetFlix, three companies credited with single-handedly destroying industries.

But Uber didn’t create a new kind of car ride. It delivered the car ride in a way that eliminated the things  people hate about using taxis and other ride services: Unreliability, waits, the inability to get a taxi, and in some cases exorbitant prices.

And customers were delighted.

Disruption = Customer Delight

iTunes didn’t create a new kind of music and NetFlix didn’t create a new kind of TV show. Instead, they both changed the way these things were delivered.

iTunes meant music lovers no longer had to buy a whole album to get just the songs they wanted, or limit playing those songs to CDs or other physical media they were packaged in.

NetFlix originally eliminated late fees, allowing customers to keep the DVDs they took out as long as they wanted. Later, it introduced streaming, so you could watch whatever you wanted (in its library) at any time from anywhere. No longer were you limited to a couple DVDs (again, the limits of physical media), or TV channel schedules. Whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it — that was the promise of NetFlix.

And people love it. NetFlix is now a synonym for watching long periods of TV at home, and “NetFlix and chill” has come to mean a date night you definitely are not going out for.

Customer Delight > Marketing

These services all delighted customers. That’s how they won.

Delighting customers — making sure they get what they want the way they want it — creates a kind of goodwill marketing money can’t buy.

“In 2018, delighted customers are better at marketing for you than your own marketing department,” said Halligan. And he’s right.

Perhaps the best example is Amazon. Jeff Bezos believes in the flywheel strategy: Offer what customers want at the lowest prices possible and optimize for the customer experience — which for Amazon means making sure the the site interface, delivery and customer service aspects are all top-notch.

Do those things, and your customers will be delighted. then they’ll talk about how delighted they are, and that attracts other customers — and the flywheel just keeps expanding and expanding.

They say one of Bezos’s favorite expressions is, “Your margin in my opportunity.” But make no mistake, the opportunity he sees is a chance to delight your customers in a way you aren’t.

If that feels personal … well, a little bit, it is. Marketing in 2018 is not monolithic. It’s not broadcast. It’s not talking at customers who will have to work with you in the end. Every aspects of the customer experience is personal to the customer, and they will judge you based on that experience and very publicly discuss how it made them feel.

If you can make them feel delighted, that market is yours.

Why the Heineken Video Went Viral

Why is online content shared? To build one’s social standing? Or develop the sharer’s self-image? Those and related questions were answered last week in “10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral” for the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference and Expo. I mentioned the recent Heineken viral video “Worlds Apart.” So today, here are a few reasons why.

How Heineken Went ViralWhy is online content shared? To build one’s social standing? Or develop the sharer’s self-image? Those and related questions were answered last week in “10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral” for the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference and Expo. I mentioned the recent Heineken viral video “Worlds Apart.” So today, here are a few reasons why.

If you missed 10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral last week, you can still watch and listen to it here.

Participants during my session posed some questions about making successful videos. Here is the Q&A, including my thoughts about the Heineken video.

How Do You Find Out What Your Customers Want to See if You Offer a Service?

Whether you offer a service or product, the obvious answer might be to ask your customers. But I’d actually suggest that your customers may prefer to be surprised. That is, avoid the obvious and consider the obscure presentation that no one thought to ask about.

Think about how you can use the news or headlines to create a story. Or perhaps there is an attitude or temperament you want to tap into. The Heineken Worlds Apart video, released on April 20, has had over 11 million views so far. They don’t sell beer. Rather, it’s a commentary about our culture, and that while some people may be worlds apart, they can agree to disagree, and perhaps even soften barriers over a beer. It’s a brilliant video, and at over 4 minutes in length, delivers a strong message that surely strengthens their brand. By the way, this illustrates that under-two-minute videos aren’t the only way to command views.

https://youtu.be/8wYXw4K0A3g

Behind-the-scenes can always be a pleasant surprise. Show how your product is made — or how it is used, out in the wild. Gather testimonials and let the word-of-mouth tell your story in an unexpected way.

If you’re a non-profit, show the outcomes — with real stories — of what you provide, and make sure it’s an emotional tug.

Is an Informal Video Stronger Than a Professional Scripted Video?

Sometimes. It really depends. The Heineken video doesn’t appear to have been scripted, but rather, a lot of footage was shot and it was edited down to create a compelling story that a lot of people have viewed, and perhaps embraced. More important that the video quality is the audio quality. Social media users forgive shaky smartphone videos, but if they can’t discern the audio or if there is distracting, loud background noise, they may not stay with it.

So Green Screen Videos Are Out?

A lot of interesting graphics and text can be used if you have a talking head on video and recorded in front of a green screen. People want to connect emotionally with interesting people, so I would suggest you need the right person to be on camera if you’re shooting in front of a green screen. Also, a green screen allows for simple, controlled, limited lighting in a confined area. In editing, you have options around the environment the speaker is in—and it can change during the video.

When Your Price Really Is Too High

When I get asked by sales professionals all around the county how they can overcome the “Your Price is Too High” objection, my response is you must first understand that in their operating reality, your prospect is right. Your price is too high. For now.

when-your-price-really-is-too-high[Editor’s note: Though this post talks about sales, it does get into issues marketers find vexing. It also provides solutions marketers may be able to use.]

When I get asked by sales professionals all around the county how they can overcome the “Your Price is Too High” objection, my response is you must first understand that in their operating reality, your prospect is right. Your price is too high. For now.

Your price is too high because you have not done one or both of the following:

  1. You have not uncovered a good and compelling reason for them to buy from you. Put simply, they have not recognized a need.
  2. You have a value problem. You have not established what your product or service will provide to them financially, operationally or personally and what problem you are solving for them.

You have choices when you hear that objection.

You can ask “Where do I need to be with my price in order to close this deal?” which many salespeople resort to. Selling on price, however, is always a losing proposition. You might win a deal, but you are left defenseless because someone can always come along with a cheaper price and take your client away. The other option is that you can take the time to uncover needs and sell value.

The most effective strategy against the price objection is preventing it in the first place.

What’s the Problem?

Let’s assume we have a great handle on all the features and benefits of our product/service. We also have a target set of clients that have been predetermined to likely need what we are selling. We might have even been trained on why they need what we sell. This combination can often be deadly — especially to the seasoned sales rep. We think we know the problem our client has (because we’ve seen it before) and so we charge in to solve it! Even if we are right, we set ourselves up for failure. Why? Because we didn’t take the time to ask about their situation, really listen to them and create something that will be meaningful to them personally. You must show that you care and that you want more than anything else to understand their operating reality and see if you can possibly make it better. If you do this, they will acknowledge a need for what you are selling. The only way to accomplish this is to use effective questioning skills and active listening skills.

So What?

True sales professionals concentrate on first understanding the client’s current challenges and identifying how your product or service will solve their problem. Think of it like this, no one buys the product or service you sell, they buy what it will do for them. 

WIIFM. What’s In It For Me. That is what they buy. Picture your prospect thinking to themselves with every sentence you utter about your product or service. “So What? So What does that mean to ME? What’s In It for ME?” If you can take the problem you uncovered and communicate the value you can deliver in those terms, you are well on your way.

Value = Benefits – Cost

Value has a price tag. And it varies depending on the buyer – not the product/service. Long before the price is ever mentioned, the sales professional must uncover what their prospect perceives as valuable and what the consequences of not buying are worth. With that in mind, they can position it so that the buyer feels as though the price was a great deal for them, regardless of the price. ROI! The equation Value = Benefits – Cost shows that we put a price on cost AND we put a price on the benefits. If in our mind, the benefits are greater, than there is value in making a purchase.

Let’s use buying a highly commoditized item as an example. A cotton, short-sleeved, T-shirt. These types of T-shirts can range in price from $5 to $100 or more. Things matter to buyers; color, sheen, logos, convenience of purchase, weight, etc. And, they often also appeal to emotions such as a souvenir of a great vacation, your favorite band, college, a show of super-fan for a favorite sports team. Personally, I wouldn’t pay much for a Mets T-shirt, but would spend plenty more on a Cubs T-shirt and even more still if I bought it at a game, where I had a great time watching them beat the Mets. But, that’s just me.

You can be prepared in advance to uncover the problem, position what you are selling in terms of what it means to them and in terms of their perception of value, AND help them justify their purchase when they state your price is too high. Or you can lower your price. It’s your choice.

 

Sensory Appeal, in Video Form

In a world where it’s easy to experience sensory overload multiple times a day just from our smartphones, it’s almost ironic to suggest that you add to it with your marketing programs. But you should.

VideoIn a world where it’s easy to experience sensory overload multiple times a day just from our smartphones, it’s almost ironic to suggest that you add to it with your marketing programs. But you should.

With all of the media consumers consume daily — about 11 hours a day, for all channels combined — we’ve become dependent on interactive digital experiences that take little more effort than listening and watching. And we don’t even like doing that for more than two minutes. Our media usage has changed our interest levels, or maybe its our willingness to read or watch long documentaries — as we are now used to getting news, and now possibly the State of the Union, in Twitter posts.

Rising to fill the gap from our changing media consumption is video — short, entertaining snippets of two to three minutes that entertain, inform and, hopefully for those who produce them, inspire us to engage, inquire and buy something. It’s working.

HubSpot shares some powerful statistics showing how video is impacting consumer behavior and why you need to jump on this bandwagon, too. Here are just a few:

  • Videos in email lead to a jump in clickthrough rates of between 200 and 300 percent
  • Videos on a landing page can help your conversions increase by 80 percent
  • Videos combined with a full-page ad can boost engagement by 22 percent
  • Videos can increase likelihood of purchase by 64 percent among online shoppers
  • Videos included in a real estate listing can up inquiries by 403 percent
  • Video inspires 50 percent of executives to seek more information about a product
  • Video inspires 65 percent of executives to visit a marketer’s website, and 39 percent to call a vendor

I could go on … but I think the point is clear: You need to create videos if you want to engage customers and sell more products. And because YouTube is the second-largest search engine, next to Google. Enough said.

I’ll Say More

Another reason you must include video in addition to all of the above is most of your competitors are doing it and that can leave you out in the cold if you are not. Okay, so more stats from HubSpot:

  • 87 percent of online marketers use video content
  • 22 percent of small businesses in the U.S. plan to use it
  • 96 percent of B-to-B organizations use it

Most importantly, 90 percent of video watchers say they help them make purchase decisions and 92 percent of those viewing them on mobile devices share videos with others.

The one challenge is that there are a lot of videos competing with each other, as evidenced by yet another statistic: On average, users are exposed to 32.3 videos a month, or roughly one a day.

So how do you create videos that build your business and use them effectively in your marketing mix?

Like all things you do in any medium — print, digital, mobile — your content needs to have value, and that value can be improving someone’s circumstances, inspiring them to live a better life, or guiding them to do their jobs better, so they achieve their goals and advance their careers. Your videos need to create an emotional reaction that drives them to contact you for further information.

Here Are Some Tips

Regardless of your business genre, keep videos short and to the point. This is not your attempt to produce a Hollywood blockbuster. It is simply a way to tell your story with a medium that appeals to our senses and makes your brand come to life. Your videos should not be more than two to three minutes long. Go more only if your content justifies it.

Before you debut your videos publicly, test them. Ask non-employees and even non-customers to sit through your videos and give you feedback. Good questions to ask include:

  • Did it keep your interest?
  • What was the main message you took away from this video?
  • Did it inspire you to inquire more about our product or service? If yes, why? If not, why?
  • Was the length appropriate?
  • Did you think the production quality of this video was in line with other brand videos you have watched?

Like any marketing communications, always include a call to action and a response mechanism. Stay away from promotions, as they’ll expire before you’re ready to stop using the video. Make it clear how to contact you for more information through your email, website, phone numbers and social channels.

Keep your videos short. No one wants to spend more than two to three minutes watching a video that they know is intended to sell them something. Use their time and yours wisely, and keep your content on-task.

Use professional footage and images. Your video can be a slide show, with text fading in and out, or it can be a true video with all of the moving parts. Regardless of the format you use, use the highest resolution and quality possible. Your reputation is on the line, per the quality you project. If you are a high-tech company and you use low-tech video, that transfers to the perceived quality of the products you sell.

Create a YouTube channel to house all of your videos. You can archive videos on YouTube and on your website. For either option, include a transcript of your video to help you achieve higher SEO.

For B-to-C, you can add a little more fun and focus on life messages, not just brand messages. Coca-Cola does a great job of this. Its channel has more than 1.2 million subscribers and its views have topped more than 22 million for a single video. Coke’s “Happiness Truck” video, which shows a Coke truck dispensing gifts to people on the streets in Rio, has more than 1.6 million views — another inspirational message that worked to build the emotional equity of the Coke brand. Interestingly enough, its video with 22.3 million views as of this writing is about spending more time offline and enjoying the journey of life in the real world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiu9PcEyQ5Y

B-to-B Video Tip

For the B-to-B world, here are some tips:

  • Create product demo videos to showcase the features that set your products apart.
  • Show how your products compare to competitors, when applicable, and how your products fulfill the needs of your viewers.
  • Include statements from your company leaders to show their vision and help tell your brand story.
  • Include customers talking about their experiences with your product and your team. Video testimonials are powerful, because viewers can see the body language, the smiles, the looks of relief and hear the excitement in voices that written testimonials do not provide.

Again, consumers like to see brand stories in which they can see themselves. They want to be the proud father, or the mom being thanked by her Olympian child as shown in Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” ad series that makes many moms cry, no matter how many times they watch the videos. Consumers want to be the vacationers on the beach, the newly engaged couple, the happy family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ3k6BFX2uw

Find ways to associate your brand with what matters most to your consumers and then get creative and start writing video scripts that tell your story in conjunction with the goals they have for their lives.

Automation Beating Humans at CX

What’s more important to customer experience? Your people or your automation? Recent evidence from the fast food sector isn’t so good for the humans. If you’re looking to build a great CX, it may be time to stop training your humans, and start building a better robot.

A Chinese maid service robot: Is this the CX customer actually want?
A Chinese maid service robot: Is this the CX customer actually want?

What’s more important to customer experience (CX)? Your people or your automation?

Recent evidence from the fast food sector isn’t so good for the humans.

Andy Puzder, CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., talked to Business Insider about his experience putting order kiosks in their restaurants to supplement human order takers. Puzder commented to Business Insider: “I’ve been inside restaurants where we’ve installed ordering kiosks … and I’ve actually seen young people waiting in line to use the kiosk where there’s a person standing behind the counter, waiting on nobody.”

Puzder is even considering opening a new restaurant that wouldn’t require human interaction, similar to Eatsa in San Francisco.

Such ideas are gaining traction across the industry. Not just because it could mean labor savings, but because there appears to be a customer base that prefers automation to human interactions.

And the reason seems to be … Millennials hate dealing with people.

That doesn’t just come from Puzder. Frischer restaurants in the Midwest U.S. did a study on their drive through traffic, and found that a third of 18 to 24 year-olds use the drive through because, “they don’t feel like dealing with people”

They prefer a process that, although not automated yet, is as close to automated as possible.

Human interaction isn’t helping the CX for them. Humans are ruining it.

So apply that finding beyond the fast food space. Where does that leave us?

For years we’ve been thinking good people are the key to good service. But what if the real key is automation?

After all, we already know customers don’t want a relationship with their cough medicine, they just want to stop coughing. If that’s the CX they want, why not let the robots do it?

I’ve long heard readers and contributors bemoan the loss of the human touch. … Maybe they only notice the lack of touch because they’re not getting good robots?

This isn’t just about machines replacing humans for productivity or financial reasons. It’s about an intuitive CX. If you know what your customers want, why do they need to ask a human for it? Why not just set it up automatically? Or on demand at the push of a button?

The Robot CX Uprising Has Already Begun

We can already see several very successful businesses that were built simply on improving CX by letting machines do what humans may not be very good at:

  • Uber automated your taxi dispatch and hiring.
  • GrubHub automated restaurant order taking and delivery.
  • Facebook automated friendship.
  • Amazon automated … well, everything about shopping.

Jeff Bezos and the robot uprisingSo if you’re looking to build a great CX, it may be time to stop training your humans, and start building a better robot.

My Account Was Hacked! A Lesson in Customer Service

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I love Starbucks. When taking a road trip, I use Google maps to find the closest location when I need a little pick-me-up. When flying, I seek them out in airports. And while recently strolling down the street in Lima, Peru, I spied that familiar green logo and my husband immediately knew I’d have to stop in for my favorite latté.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I love Starbucks. When taking a road trip, I use Google maps to find the closest location when I need a little pick-me-up. When flying, I seek them out in airports. And while recently strolling down the street in Lima, Peru, I spied that familiar green logo and my husband immediately knew I’d have to stop in for my favorite latté.

Several years ago I signed up for their loyalty program, tied my Starbucks card into one of my credit cards and now proudly carry my own personal Starbucks Gold Card that is always “filled” with enough financial credit to ensure I can support my addiction.

I was sitting at my desk last week responding to emails when suddenly an automated email from Starbucks popped up thanking me for “reloading” my Gold Card. I thought it a bit odd, as I hadn’t visited a Starbucks in over a week and usually, as soon as I hit my pre-determined minimum, it reloads on the spot.

A minute later I received another automated email telling me they had “reloaded” my card. “Hmmm …” I thought, “There’s a glitch in their email system because I got that email twice.”

A minute after that, I received another email confirming my Starbucks Card Balance Transfer of $XXX from my Gold Card to a different Starbucks card number.

Wait … What?!?

I looked back at the first reload email and compared it to the second reload email and realized there were two different transaction numbers … And now it all made sense.

It seems someone had hacked into my account, transferred $XXX from my credit card to my Gold Card, did it again, and then transferred the entire amount to their own Starbucks card! I was flabbergasted.

I immediately called Starbucks customer service and the guy on the other end of the phone could not have handled the situation any better if he tried.

Direct Mail: A New Perspective

The key to effective direct mail is perspective. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Why is this so important in direct mail marketing? Knowing your audience and how they will perceive your message can make or break your results

The key to effective direct mail is perspective. Perspective is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Why is this so important in direct mail marketing? Knowing your audience and how they will perceive your message can make or break your results.

Many marketers spend all their time focused on the list and the creative, leaving the messaging as an afterthought. This does not work. All three components work together to get you top results with direct mail. So, how can you create better messaging?

Six keys to generate powerful messaging based on perspective:

  1. Focus: Who is your target audience? What are they interested in? What makes them tick?
  2. Benefits: What is your product or service going to do for your audience?
  3. Conversation: You are creating a conversation about your product or service with your audience. This may mean that it stretches across more than one marketing channel. You may start off the conversation with direct mail and lead them online to more information on your website or social media accounts.
  4. Opinions: Otherwise known as testimonials about your product or service by people like your audience. Real people making real statements are powerful persuasions.
  5. Inspire: If you can create language that inspires people to action, you have powerful means to generate response. This is your best call to action. How will you inspire?
  6. Review: Approach current customers who are similar to your target audience to solicit their views on your messaging. Are you getting the right message across? Does the call to action work? What would they say differently, you may be surprised at what you learn.

By taking the time to write your messaging to the perspective of the prospect/customer, you are first validating their position and thus grabbing their attention. Next you are creating an open environment to generate response. Make sure that you provide multiple ways to respond, such as phone, website, in person, mobile, social media and any others that are available to you.

Perspective is not about shoving products or services at people who should want them, but showing them how and why they need your products or services. Creating a belief of need in your product or service that they generate for themselves based on information your provided is the most powerful message you have. Take the time to write your messaging in this way.

Remember that you should create different messaging for different audiences even within the same campaign. Variable messaging will help you improve your results. You should test your messaging as well. See what works better and build on that. Always track your results. There are many ways to do that, from URL’s, phone numbers and special offer codes. Find what works best for you and implement it right away. Perspective can provide you with the means to better ROI.

Drive Leads on Facebook by Getting Customers to Gab

What can a regional supplier of HVAC products and services teach you about Facebook? Plenty. I’ve already explained how Steelmaster Buildings gets leads on its Facebook page using a similar strategy. Today I’ll give an update on how Amanda Kinsella, of residential HVAC provider Logan Services, is getting along. She is continuing to generate leads and tracking ROI to the penny on Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

What can a regional supplier of HVAC products and services teach you about Facebook? Plenty.

I’ve already explained how Steelmaster Buildings gets leads on its Facebook page using a similar strategy. Today I’ll give an update on how Amanda Kinsella, of residential HVAC provider Logan Services, is getting along.

She is continuing to generate leads and tracking ROI to the penny on Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

A Simple Approach
Drive prospects to your page and get them talking about themselves. At first it sounds too simple. But that’s the beauty of it. Here’s the short version: grab customers’ attention and “ethically bribe” them to visit your Facebook page.

Sure, use a contest … BUT … make sure you provide an incentive for prospects to talk about themselves.

Bribe Customers to Talk About Themselves
Get a bowl of candy. Then, hand it out. Free. Just like at a trade show booth.

Why do vendors set out a bowl of candy? To encourage you to linger? Yes.

But smart booth attendants know the key to success is not using candy to talk about what they’re selling. Generating leads is 110 percent about getting prospects talking about themselves first.

A Strange Place to Start
Don’t be fooled by the bad advice online about how to generate leads on Facebook. We’re being hoodwinked into believing social media is a no-cost way of generating customers.

Wrong! It is a low-cost strategy. Smart, targeted advertising is often where to start: Buy attention. Pay for advertisements in places your target market can be found.

For example, Amanda is a one-woman marketing team at Logan Services. This small business serves a large chunk of territory in the Dayton, Ohio region.

Amanda keeps it simple—buying ads where her target market hangs out. She invests precious budget-dollars in local newspapers, TV and radio spots. This creates attention she can work with … that she can push towards Logan’s Facebook page.

Her lure? A free heating or air conditioning system for a customer who needs one. She runs a contest on Facebook that gives away a multi-thousand-dollar residential HVAC system!

Sound crazy? Keep reading. She’s been doing this for a few years now—generating positive ROI.

Tactic No. 1: Use an Incentive to Spread the Word
Any fool can run a contest on Facebook. But when giving away thousands of dollars in equipment and a service contract, Amanda has to be SURE her investment will pay off.

She needs guaranteed leads that will generate thousands in profit for Logan.

When potential customers (from the ads) first started landing on the Facebook page, Amanda told them about the catch. Nobody would win a new furnace unless a minimum of 200 prospects entered the contest.

Her prospects needed to:

  • tell Logan why they needed the system (in a few sentences); and
  • spread the word about the contest.

Amanda put her prospects under incentive to help make sure Logan got what it wanted—leads! You can do the same.

Tactic No. 2: Use Your ‘Thank You’ Page
After prospects filled out the contest application, they were presented with an opportunity to get a quote from Logan on the contest “thank you” page. On average, 20 percent of all contestants started requesting quotes.

Prospects were realizing, “Hey we need a furnace sometime soon … and we may not actually win … so why not check out Logan’s prices anyway?”

This is the power of good direct response social marketing design and this is why you should know people like Amanda.

Tactic No. 3: Give Customers an Incentive to Talk
Human beings love to talk. Especially about themselves. Your potential new (and existing) customers are no different.

Once Amanda’s hopeful contestants spread the word (and reached the minimum threshold) they were given a chance to enter the contest. To enter, prospects filled out an application. The contest form captured valuable insights … stories on why the prospect needed a new furnace so badly.

Talking about themselves naturally revealed details about current and future need for Logan’s products and services.

Convincing customers to talk about themselves is how Amanda grew her database of qualified leads well into the hundreds. That was just in the first year.

Exactly How She Did It
Here is a visual example of how Amanda “ethically bribes” customers to talk about themselves … in ways that reveals leads for her sales team to gently follow-up on.

YOU can do the same. See how it works?

Today, Amanda uses the same lead generation model for Facebook. It works, so why change it?

She also exploits her captive audience on Logan’s Facebook page. As you can see above, these are people who have come to expect giveaways. So, Amanda gives away regularly!

In this case, cash. Gift cards.

Amanda’s reward? More leads at even less cost.

Here’s the rub: She’s not spending on ads for these leads because prospects been “trained” to keep in touch with Logan. Lately, they’re hungry for energy saving tips that save them some money. But most of all, prospects and customers are on Logan’s Facebook page accessing the latest contests.

It wasn’t always easy for Amanda. She struggled for a long time. Amanda tried everything to get potential buyers to talk with her on Facebook. But nobody wanted to talk with a HVAC company. Not even about subjects like saving money on taxes and other energy tips she provided.

But today is a different time for Amanda!